As parents, we want our children to be happy and successful, and the one factor that has a big impact on both your child’s happiness and success, is their career choice.
Our children will be spending many hours, weeks, and years, in their job. Doing something they enjoy, that also aligns with what is important to them, will make life more satisfying in the long run.
However, choosing the right career is not an easy feat.
Making a decision about what to do with one’s life can be daunting, confusing, and even frightening. How many of us knew what career we will end up pursuing when we were a teenager? My guess is not many, at least not for me and individuals whom I have the privilege to work with in my coaching practice.
Growing up, I did not have a clue about what I wanted to do when I finished school. In fact, it was not until I turned forty that I finally discovered my passion for helping others find clarity in life. I learnt from my own struggles that clarity is key. Prior to discovering clarity, I spent my early twenties studied for a construction management degree and another fifteen years worked in the construction industry, only to find fulfilment in doing something completely different today. But my story is not unique.
Without guidance, many teenagers, like my younger self, would not have the clarity that can only come from self-knowledge and higher awareness, to choose a career path that would best suit them.
Now that I am a parent, it got me thinking about my role in guiding my child through this self and career discovery process.
What would be the best possible ways to guide our children away from some of the pitfalls we encountered, and towards the direction that will give them the best chance to a fulfilling career, yet allowing them space to also grow from this process?
Studies carried out on primary-aged children in the UK, by the Department for Education (DfE) and Education and Employers, published in 2010 and 2017 respectively, consistently concluded that early career-related learning increased children’s understanding of the link between education and careers. The result is a more positive attitude towards school and education. The findings also indicated that as the children’s awareness of career options increased, their confidence in their ability to do a professional or skilled job in the future also increased.
Over 90% of primary school teachers believed that when children are able to understand the relevance of their study subjects to the real world, their motivation and engagement with school work increased.
While it is not recommended that parents start giving career advice to primary aged children, helping young children develop self-knowledge and broadening their horizon of the vast range of possibilities that are open to them, will set them up for the best possible position as they transition into their secondary education, and eventually making decisions on subjects and course that will impact their future.
Provide Exposure for Self-discovery
Self-discovery plays a significant part in their child’s career discovery development.
Increasing self-knowledge and self-awareness are paramount when comes to helping children learn how to make good decisions for themselves. We can only choose what is right for us based on what we know about ourselves, and this also applies to our children in choosing a career path that is a good fit for them.
When children get exposure to a variety of interesting areas in healthy doses, they are able to discover about themselves in different areas and settings. They learn about their likes and dislike, strengths and weakness, the type of environment that brings out the best in them, if they lead better as a team or solo, what activities do they naturally gravitate towards, things that motivate and are important to them, and so on.
The best thing about starting your child early is that there is time for them to explore and discover without the pressure of overloading, which would only lead to feeling stressed and lacking the mental energy for proper exploration, curiosity, and creative thinking, which are the absolute essentials for discovering and developing their true talent.
The trick is to maintain a healthy level of exposures without over-scheduling them.
When they get to high school, there are aptitude and personality assessments that can be taken to help reinforce patterns of specific behavioural traits, preferences, or areas of motivation to further support their growing perception of their own place in the working world.
Exploration of career options
Apart from knowledge of self, the other key to making well-informed career decisions in developing your child’s knowledge about the different career options.
The world that our children are experiencing is quite different from the one that we experienced when we were in our teens. Just over twenty years ago, Google was newly launched, while companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube did not even exist. We did not have smartphones like the ones everyone has today, no iPad, nor Netflix. New roles are being created at a rapid pace, and it seems many jobs that are open today did not even exist just 10 years ago.
So it is important that parents maintain an open mind and encourage your child to explore options that are available to them.
Without a doubt, parents bring to the table invaluable life experiences and knowledge of the current working world, and we can have significant influences over our children’s career selection. However, it is cautioned that over-involvement and control can completely undermine the positive parental effects.
Our children have their unique interests, strengths, weaknesses, skills, preferences, and values as an individual. Dictation and unrealistic expectations from parents would only hinder their growth and future happiness, making their future seems more terrifying.
Parents help best when we provide guidance and support, allowing our children to grow through this self and career discovery process, empowering them the confidence in making a well-informed decision about their career. Research has shown that teenagers who feel competent regarding making a career decision tend to make more satisfying career choices later in life (Keller 2004).
➡️ Related Read: Does Teenager Need Credit Card?
Here are a few ways parents can encourage their children in exploring different career possibilities:
- Encourage your child to talk about different careers of different people, or even better, to hear from other professionals directly.
For instance, when I took my eight year old to his dental check-up last week, he got to hear directly from our wonderful dentist what her day-to-day job entails. He also watched on, in amazement, when she demonstrated how she used a playdough-like material to make a dental impression.
- Encourage your child to keep a journal about their career discovery journey.
As children grow through their pre-teen and teenage years, their interests may change. Keeping a journal to keep track of interesting career ideas as they come up, and their pattern of growth in terms of things that interested and mattered to them.
For example, is there a pattern of people-orientated roles, leadership or team orientated roles, high energy roles such as new ventures and constant changes, low energy roles such as technically specialised professions, competitive roles or role of service to others, etc.
- Attend career fairs with your child to find out more about different types of career paths.
- Speak to a career adviser, counsellor or coach at school.
Encourage your child to gain knowledge on a good variety of professions and keep their options open for as long as possible.
As teenagers progress to narrowing down their career choices and eventually a chosen career path, parents may start to think about how to help their children stay on track, maintaining their aspirations and focus on what they have set out to achieve.
Maintaining Aspirations and Focus to Achieving Their Dream
The reality is, no matter how passionate one feels about a career decision, it remains a goal that will take years to reach. During this period while your child is working towards making his or her career choice a reality, it is natural to have days when motivation runs low and self-doubts seep in.
It is therefore important that they remember why they have chosen this path in the first place. When they are clear on what they truly want and why they want it, they will find a way. It is therefore crucial that teenagers get crystal clear about why they feel passionate about their decision, and why is achieving it important to them. Have them write down their ‘why‘ and put it up somewhere they see to serve as a reminder of their bigger picture, and why they are doing what they are doing.
Their ‘big picture’ vision can also be expressed in the form of a vision board. Parents can use questions that are relevant to the child to help them design a vision board that represents their aspiration for the future.
For instance, ask them to reflect on how will they use their strengths to make other people’s lives better or improve on a problem they feel passionate about? What will their life look like in 10/20 years’ time? What will their home look like? What kind of person are they aspired to be?
When children are able to see the relevance of what they are doing and to connect what they are doing to what they want to become, there is a purpose to what they have to do.
Over time, aspiration and focus may feel jaded, simply guide them to revisit their vision, and refocus on one part of the process at a time.
With this rapidly changing world of work, the career discovery process is more complex, and more than ever before, our children need our help to navigate through this confusing phase of their development. When parents guide and support their child in ways that allow the child space to grow and develop through self-discovery and exploration of various professions based on their own preferences, they will be empowered to make good career choices that feel right for them. Thus, increasing their chance of a happy and successful future.
To guide, but not to dictate.
To be involved, but not in control.
To advise, but not to decide.
To support, but not to dominate.
To enjoy the journey together.
This article is contributed by Anna LJ, Performance Coach and Founder of Strider Kids Coaching.
Anna believes that a future of more happy, empowered children will make a brighter and safer world for all of us. She has a mission to help children develop a success mindset, supportive beliefs, and positive attitude, empowering them to strive for a fulfilling and successful journey. Through her kids coaching programs, children learn to be confident, resilient and take responsibility for their learnings and growth.
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