One of the biggest misconceptions about choosing a career is that people are born with a set of clear talents and skills that they hone in time and then seamlessly turn into a profession. But in reality, it’s not that simple. Talents have to be discovered, the complex workplace market needs to be carefully evaluated, and people need guidance and advice to choose the right career path. That’s difficult enough for a fully-grown adult with life experience, so for a teenager who’s just graduated high school, navigating the route to career success is so much scarier. As a parent, you have your child’s best interests at heart and you’re the first person your child will turn to for help. But there’s a very fine line between being supportive and sabotaging their professional life.
Empower your child to discover their individuality
In today’s society, there are many examples of teens who take on the job of one or both of their parents and there is nothing wrong with that as long as the career “heritage” is a personal choice, not an enforced sacrifice. Becoming a doctor or a lawyer because it’s simpler, because the path is already laid out for you or for the sake of passing on the family tradition is as harmful for the child as it is for the family, and sooner or later it will lead to feelings of frustration, remorse and unfulfillment. As difficult as it might be, try to leave your own aspirations aside and not project yourself onto your child. Encourage them to cherish their individuality, help them understand what they like doing and let them follow their passion. This doesn’t mean you’ll close your eyes to the realities of your local economy and workforce. Quite the contrary, you have to help them choose a career path that allows them to follow their talents while at the same time ensuring financial stability. Does it look like the two have nothing to do with each other? In this case…
Understand that the market is changing
A few decades ago, choosing a career path was a relatively straightforward process. You graduated high school, went to college and then found a job almost immediately in one of the fields you were familiar with and worked in that field your entire life. Now, the workplace is much more dynamic. Not only is the process of finding a job different, but jobs themselves are evolving faster than ever before. Thanks to technology, new jobs are created every day, to the point where schools can’t keep up. The classic divisions of Math, Physics, Computer Science, Foreign languages and Business are slowly becoming outdated and people are making money from jobs that didn’t even exist when you were little. So, before scolding your child that they’re spending too much time on the computer, consider that many young people are now earning six figure incomes from vlogging, live streaming, game testing and even videogame tournaments. Also, vocational schools are starting to recover from the loss in popularity and are becoming lucrative options for teens who want to live outside the academic bubble. Cosmetology schools, message therapy schools or carpentry schools are admitting a lot of students and in many cases, they can provide more professional stability than going to university. The bottom line is that it matters less and less what you do, and more how good you are at it. Avoid social constructs like jobs for boys or jobs for girls because they don’t hold up and they will lead to many lost opportunities. If your son or daughter is great at drawing, photography or playing the guitar, don’t disregard their talents.
According to a recent study, more than half of parents are unaware of what job opportunities their children have after finishing school. At the same time, 33% of parents are involved in their children’s job hunting process, so it’s very important to be up to date with the current state of the workplace before giving your insights.
Encourage networking and all forms of education
If your teenage son or daughter already has an idea of what they want to do, you can help them reach their goal and make a career out of it:
- Expose them to a variety of activities so they can realize whether they want to pursue their talents as hobbies or as professions
- Help them find a mentor, someone who works in their desired field of activity and can provide them with relevant, hands-on advice
- Look together at schools and other education options, weighing the pros and cons of each one
- Encourage them to become a part of a professional network. For example, they can join student communities of the colleges they’d like to attend to learn more about their life or go on forums to discover the good and bad parts of their dream jobs.
- Teach them how to market themselves. For starters, making a CV is very important, but on today’s job market, so is having an up-to-date LinkedIn profile and knowing what job searching platforms to join.
- Teach them to be persistent, learn from failures and follow their dreams. Unfortunately, job hunting isn’t easy and very few people become professionally accomplished immediately after graduation. Become your child’s role model and inspire them to pursue their ambitions, no matter if they fall within the academic spectrum or not.