Tips for Helping Your Teen Find a Career Path

It Is the Biggest Decision of Their Young Life and Your Support is Crucial

Student looking up during exam
Getty Images/David Schaffer

Teenagers face many big decisions and choosing what they want to do after high school is the biggest. Parents can help teens with a future career by talking about their interests and the options available to them.

Helping Teens Decide on a Career Path

Thinking about a future career can bring a lot of stress. Figuring out what to do in the ‘future’ is such a vast undertaking that teenagers can have a hard time wrapping their brains around it.

It seems like a daunting task and it can be easy to ignore.

Parents need to learn to help their teen conquer this hefty question. It can be as simple as dropping seeds of conversation as time goes by and watch them grow into ideas.

If you begin as early as middle school, the 'big' question can be chopped up into workable issues.

  • Over the years, your teen can explore the career fields through various activities.
  • As they get older, they will begin to fine tune that interest into a career they may really enjoy.

This can not only open up your teenager's mind to a good career path but give both of you something to enjoy throughout the years.

Every time you talk to your teen about the future you will need to give them time to digest the conversation. Try not to pick his brain too much while he is doing this. Simply ask if he is ready to talk more about it and abide by his answer.

#1 - Discuss Opportunities at the Time

In your child’s life, there are times when they are given the opportunity to see or discuss a certain job or industry.

Schools have Career Day, an aunt or uncle may talk about what they do for a living or a youth group may take a trip to a hospital and talk to the staff. Each of these is an opportunity for you to ask your teen what he thought of those jobs or that field of work.

#2 - Research Their Interest

When your teen shows interest in a certain career, you should do some research.

Then, you can offer your teen information on that job and related jobs.

The Occupational Outlook Handbook put out by the Department of Labor examines many career paths and is a wonderful free online resource.

The handbook will tell you the basic facts, including:

  • The type of education and degree is needed.
  • If on-the-job training is available or required.
  • How much someone can make in that field.
  • A projection of the job's growth over time.
  • A breakdown of data by states.
  • Similar opportunities to the job of interest.
  • Other information to give you and your teen an overall idea of almost every career option.

#3 - Look at the Pros and Cons

Examine the pros and cons for each of the different career interests with your teen. Write these down and keep adding to the list as you both learn more about each career.

Encourage them to narrow the choices down to five at the most. He can always change his mind after he sees the specifics for these choices.

#4 - Determine the Path Needed

Figure out the path your teen would have to take in order to obtain the education for his career choices.

  • Is a bachelor's degree required or do they only need an associate's degree at first?
  • Can some of the classes be taken at a community college or should they go directly into a four-year program?
  • What can they do in high school to prepare?

This is a good time to begin ordering college and technical school catalogs. Use the catalogs and any other information you have found as an ice breaker for more conversations with your teen.

#5 - It Is Their Choice!

The ultimate decision lies with your teenager, but you do have the right to have input. Make this message clear.

  • Teach your teen that part of being independent is knowing when and who to lean on, trust and respect.
  • Be sure not to push your teen in any specific direction that may be on your agenda. While you may need to push him forward, you want to guide him towards his future, not the one you are dreaming of.

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