encouraging your child to explore career options

Posted : October 7, 2009
Last Updated : July 1, 2022

encouraging your child to explore career options

Choosing a career path is a big decision, and as a parent, you want the best for your student. Understanding that career exploration begins early and may change over time is one of the most important parts of the process.

For your student to make wise career decisions, they need to take time to explore and experiment with different industries and job options. For many students, career exploration begins as early as middle school. You may hear your child voice interest in a particular industry, or express curiosity about a friend or family member's job.

Encourage your child to share their questions with you, and be proactive about researching and learning with them as they develop interests in various paths. Here are a few ways you can support your child as they explore career options:

Allow your child to explore ideas freely.

Even if you feel a certain career is unrealistic or unsustainable, be careful not to voice negative opinions or concerns about careers your child is interested in. Especially early in the exploration process, it's essential that your student feel free and comfortable learning about different ideas. Odds are, as their interests change, they'll shift from idea to idea naturally, without feeling pressured to do so.

Along the same lines, try not to be overly enthusiastic about any specific career. You want your child to choose a career that will make them happy and lead to long-term success, not to choose the career they think meets your expectations.

If your child is further along in the exploration process, encourage them to pursue an internship or job in their industry of choice. This can be an excellent way for students to discover whether a particular career may be a good fit for them, or can help them decide when to try other things.

Find out their likes and dislikes.

Have a discussion with your child about favorite class subjects and extracurricular activities. What do they do during their free time? Do they have a favorite sport, game or hobby?

Even if a specific career doesn't directly align with their interests, consider the personality traits that drive your child's interest in their favorite things. If your student is especially organized, driven, compassionate or creative, help them consider careers that mesh well with their personalities.

Often, the traits that make your child exceptional at a sport or hobby will carry over into other areas, including career exploration.

Help your student find inspiration.

By talking with successful and happy people in a variety of fields, your child will be more motivated to find a career in which they are passionate. This can also be a terrific way for your student to learn more about the day-to-day activities involved in different industries, and determine whether they may be a good fit.

Encourage your child to ask about the good, the bad and the interesting. Most people are more than happy to talk about their professions, and especially by talking with someone who enjoys and is good at their job, your child can gain a well-rounded perspective of what a successful career looks like.

Give your child career books.

Especially if you have high school-aged children, they may enjoy reading about careers or industries that interest them. You can find a variety of books that describe different jobs in various fields, and these are a great way to learn. Ask your child to read through a book and highlight careers that interest them, then begin to explore those fields further.

Suggest that your student volunteer or intern in different fields.

Your child needs to get as much hands-on experience as possible in order to decide if they like a certain career. Help your student find internship or volunteer opportunities where they can work in a multitude of fields. Especially during middle and high school, it's important to experiment with a number of opportunities to determine which ones may be a good fit.

Finding the right career fit is important for a lifetime of happiness. Work with your child on career planning so they can find the right fit for their personality and interests. For more information about career exploration, please read Career Planning: Start Early.

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