All parents want their children to set up for career success down the road. All students to figure out what career is right for them, to they can live a good life, have stability, and avoid challenges of feeling stuck, hating their job, and avoiding financial and emotional stress.
With the cost of college today, it helps both students and parents to have guidance and objective criteria to make informed decisions.
Students frequently have only vague ideas for the future. Yes, some students are very aware of their strengths and they have a fit career in mind, but the majority are usually unsure between a few options, their choices is limited by their personal experiences as a teenager, or they have no idea at all. They often are led more by family influence, what they enjoy doing, and what others consider important for them. Often they are not aware of their natural strengths and how these can translate to career success. Parents and career counselors can help students discriminate their best options.
Here are some tips that will help you talk to your freshman or sophomore high school student about his or her college and career plans:
1. Early high school is a good time to start the discussion. At this time the topics are more about exploring options, school subjects that come easier to them, and their interests. If they have some ideas, parents may know of a neighbor, or relative working in the field they can talk to in the field. If they have no idea at all, this is normal because they have limited work experiences so the goal may be to start talking about different major types of careers.
2. Don't rush to judgement. It is not important that a teenager find the "one" perfect career in high school. It is more important that he or she considers a few options and they become motivated to explore several in more depth and to start thinking further ahead than just through the end of the current school year.
3. Be suspicious of fast answers. When an answer about college or career comes up too quickly, can they explain why, or where this is coming from? Has the desire to become a doctor come from real experience (working with sick people, a love of biology, family experience) or is it prompted by the view that it's a respectable or high paying career?
4. Welcome complicated, half-thought-out answers. Kids usually don't have experiences to help them visualize job duties or tasks. Be glad that you are getting something. Try to find the source of the ideas. When did the students get interested? Why?
5. Encourage hands-on experience. What students experience first hand will have 10-20 times the impact on them than what you tell them. Encourage paid or volunteer work in several areas of interest and encourage them to change up jobs during high school and college. They could also shadow a professional as a way to gain insight. Experiences in work settings will help them learn about what they enjoy and dislike the most, and may help them understand why a field may not be a good fit.
6. Arrange career information interviews. Have your student speak with relatives, neighbors, or your work colleagues about their careers to learn about what they enjoy most and their challenges.
By junior year they are fully motivated to find their best career so they can make their best college decision
Once students begin junior year in high school, they are at an ideal age for more serious discussion or career testing because life at school starts talking all about ACT/SAT prep and testing. All students want to prepare and have their best decision for their best college to attend and also to have an idea for a career to pursue. They do want to gain clarity and control over their destiny and to set the state for career success and satisfaction, so they are ready for more career investigation.
7. Engage in some career research. There are many strong career research websites. O*Net is one resource that is searchable by occupation, abilities, skills, and more. A broader real-world view can come through LinkedIn. A student or parent profile needs to be set up first. LinkedIn searching can find real-world education, skills, and accomplishments required for specific careers.
8. Help your student pay attention to what aspect of their interests helps them feel a state of flow, or gives them the greatest fulfillment. Then explore other ways to expand these skills or interactions. Students who have actively pursued their interests have a clear advantage.
9. Avoid Driving Your Own Agenda. Many well-meaning parents suggest a particular career for their child, often driven by their own vision of success. This prevents parents from being open to considering other careers that may better align with their child's innate talents aptitudes, interests or values. Sometimes it is easy for a parent to be overbearing. On my website I have posted a book in the resource section called "I'm Going to College, Not You!" by Jennifer Delahunty. This book on the list was one I needed to be reminded of as the mom going through the college plan process with my son.
10. Seek the professional guidance of a qualified career coach is one of the greatest investments you can make. You can help your child answer the questions of what they want to do when they grow up by hiring a career counselor or coach. Some parents pull back at the extra expense, but when you consider the cost between $50,000-$250,000 for a college education, career counseling can help ensure your dollars are well spent.
11. Identify their innate talents and abilities, and be able to articulate them. As a student, your child is likely lacking experiences to identify their true strengths on their own, so we recommend taking an aptitude test. I've conducted in-depth research and testing to find the top assessment tools. As a results I use the Highlands Ability Battery, known for exceptional accuracy.
To get to the right career, we need to reverse the college planning process. Our education system is set up everywhere for students, parents, and high school advisors to be focused on the end goal of getting into college.
I flip this process around:
Career → Major → College NOT
College → Major → Career
When we go through the process to find the best career fit, then the major is obvious, and it is not difficult to find colleges with strong programs. The student has confidence in their choice, they know why, they have learn about how to research careers with top tools, and they can proceed with a straight arrow to to pursue their goals.