Helping Gifted Teens Find the Right Career

Career Choice
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Many gifted teens worry about their future because they are interested in so many subjects and think that every one of those interests is a potential career. They may become stressed as they wonder what career path to follow. They may have a hard time choosing a college because they can't decide on a major, or they may switch majors often once they get to college because everything is interesting and they can't make up their minds.

If your gifted teen has trouble focusing on a career, how can you help?

Vocation or Avocation?:

Many gifted teens worry about their future because they are interested in so many subjects and think that every one of those interests is a potential career. Talk to your teen about the difference between careers and hobbies. A love of music does not need to lead to a career in music. A love of medicine does not need to lead to a medical degree. One can sing or play an instrument in community organizations, for example.

Exploring Career Requirements:

Gifted teens need to understand what it takes to prepare for a particular career choice. The subject matter may be interesting, but what it takes to achieve that career may not be so interesting. The career environment may not be so interesting either. For example, a teen who is interested in medicine might not want to spend so many years to reach the career goal.

Or the teen may not like the idea of working with cadavers. Or maybe the teen wouldn't the hours an intensity of a career as a doctor. Pharmacy might be a better career path or perhaps a career in pharmaceuticals or medical research.

Exploring Personality:

Part of what makes a career a good fit for anyone is a match between a person's personality and what a job requires.

This is one reason exploring requirements and working environments of various careers is so important. Introverts probably should stay away from careers that requires a great deal of interaction with others, while extroverts should probably avoid careers that require them to spend large amounts of time alone. A good way to determine whether an interest should become an avocation or a vocation would be to see if a teen's personality matches what a career requires.

Getting Career Counseling:

It can be quite a daunting task to explore careers and explore personality. If you can manage it, you might want consider career counseling. Career counseling will help a teen understand the careers available for various areas of interest. It can also help teens understand what those careers entail and what it takes to reach those careers. It can also help teens learn, though testing, more about their personalities and aptitudes and help them match careers to personality and aptitude. It is not a fail-safe approach, but it can help teens narrow down their choices.

Thinking Outside the Box:

Many gifted teens with varied interests end up creating their own unique career paths. That means that they are eventually able to combine more than one interest into single career. For example, teens who are interested in both art and computers can find a career in computer graphics. But even more than this, some teens can end up creating entirely new fields of study.

Aptitude and personality testing can help limit the fields so that a teen might be able to narrow down interests to two or three fields. That teen can double major in school or get an undergraduate degree in one field and a graduate degree in another and then find a way to combine those fields.

For example, I had a college instructor who had combined his interest in language with his interest in computer technology and helped create a new field of study that combines the two, much of which contributes to the way we are able to use "real" language when we search for information on the internet.

On a more personal level, I have combined an interest in linguistics with an interest in gifted children, a field which is virtually unexplored.


Gifted kids are rarely easy to parent, and that is certainly true of parenting gifted teens. While some of them seem to focus on a subject with laser-like intensity almost from birth, others flit from interest to interest or continually add interests as they move through school. This last group can become almost paralyzed by all the world seems to offer them. Not only are they interested in a wide variety of subjects, they also learn the subjects well. However, with some guidance, these teens can find a career that will make them happy

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