You can’t see into the future, but wouldn’t it be great to know that, years down the road, your children are going to end up secure and successful? Since there’s no crystal ball that you can turn to for a sneak peek, your best option is to work now on helping your kids create that future for themselves.
As a parent, you can be the most influential person in your child’s career choices. Amidst school counselors, teachers, friends, coaches, and the media, your voice should be the one that’s heard most often and most clearly.
Cast a vision now that you’re going to help your kid graduate high school with a clear career plan and the path to get there in mind. Together with your child, you can set planning goals, gather resources, bring in informative mentors and help your child work step by step toward achieving a satisfying, successful future.
1. Identify Strengths and Passions
Teenagers don’t always feel smart or talented, but the truth of the matter is that everyone is good at something. Your role as a dad is to help your children discover where their strengths lie. Work is more pleasant for those who choose careers that align with their natural abilities and inclinations instead of continually fighting an uphill battle toward success.
Of course, talent alone isn’t enough to produce lifelong job satisfaction. The real secret to a happy career is caring about the role. Your kids have a lot of working years ahead of them. Encourage them to choose a path that connects to their deeply held passions.
Easier said than done, right? Fortunately, there are plenty of tools that can help. To formulate a clear picture of where your children’s strengths and interests lie, have them complete multiple personality tests and career assessments and then compare and contrast the results.
2. Fill Life with Experiences
The more kids are aware of, the broader their horizons will be. There’s a great big world of possibilities out there, and your goal is to help your kids discover them. The things that intrigue your kids in childhood could evolve into a career path someday.
Encourage your children to take dance lessons, join a soccer team or sign up for the robotics club. You don’t need to force them to enroll in every activity, but try to be accommodating when they ask to join a group or team. Of course, balance is key; experts caution against packing your kids’ schedule so full that they never have downtime.
To keep your family calendar under control, remember that activities done together are a great way to expose your kids to new things. Join an intergenerational martial arts class, attend weekend festivals, go hiking in state parks and, if possible, travel out of the country.
3. Seek Out Mentors
Your kids may land on potential careers that are far outside your realm of experience or knowledge. For example, when a child considers becoming a professional chef, you might not be able to offer much guidance if your job involves analyzing data on a computer each day.
What you can do is hook your kids up with people who know more than you do. Mentors in your kids’ fields of interest can provide fantastic insight into what it’s really like to do those jobs. They might offer opportunities for hands-on experiences and tips about what training to pursue.
When it comes time to submit college applications, mentors may serve as valuable references. They may also be able to use their networking relationships to point your kids toward their first jobs in the field.
4. Determine a Plan for the Next Steps
Choosing a future career is only the first step. After that, you and your child need to work together to figure out what comes next.
Many career plans will require college degrees. University-bound students may need to follow a college-prep track in high school and take the ACT or SAT.
When selecting a school, it’s important to seek out universities that offer the necessary programs for your student’s career goals. Take your teen on-campus visits and talk to school representatives. Make sure to factor in the cost of tuition and be realistic with your child about what’s affordable.
Not every career path needs a four-year degree. For your teen, community college or a trade school might be a better fit. Some jobs require only a certificate program or on-the-job training. One of your child’s mentors may be able to arrange a suitable internship experience.
5. Make Patience and Encouragement Your Mantra
Determining how to spend the next 50 years of one’s life can be a monumental task. Your teens may become overwhelmed along the way. Your job is to keep the encouragement coming. Remind them that it’s okay to be unsure at this point and reassure them that they’ll eventually figure out a plan if they keep trying new things and gleaning ideas from others.
As for you, keep your patience as you help your kids navigate these decisions. Teens tend to change their minds. It’s easy to grow frustrated when you’ve invested time in exploring a potential career path that doesn’t pan out. If you lose your cool, that frustration will rub off on your kids, and they may end up settling for subpar career options.
Remember this: The goal is for your kids to end up happy and successful. That’s worth any amount of effort that it takes.
Your Influence Can Make the Difference
The role you play in shaping your children’s future can’t be matched by anyone else. Although teens don’t always show it, the guidance that you can provide is of great worth to them.
Remember that this isn’t about leading your kids to your exact plans for them. Rather, it’s helping them learn what they truly care about and, together, crafting a plan to turn those interests into a workable career plan.
When you someday see them secure and successful, you’re going to look back fondly on this time and be glad for the role that you played.