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Help Your Teen Choose a Career Path

Deciding on a career path is important, because it's the foundation for everything that comes after high school. Research shows that students who enter high school with a plan and sense of purpose have a much greater likelihood of taking all the necessary steps to succeed in high school, go to, and graduate from college. It's never too soon to start taking this step, nor too late. But it’s best to start on this path sooner… why? Because if your teen decides on a career it will become easier for her to choose the right classes in high school, get involved in the right activities, and look for the right university.

All careers fit within working with people, things, data, and ideas, and combinations of them.

For example, a teacher works primarily with people but also with ideas. In its simplest way, finding out what you are naturally good at and intersecting that with what you care about is the best formula to find a career that you might enjoy. Below we’ve outlined how you can support your teen to discover the career for him or her.

1. Talk about talents.

You probably know your teen better than anyone else, so it will definitely help to hear your opinion. So the first part is getting to know your teen even better by spending time with her and watching her in everyday life activities, noticing what kinds of questions she asks and what comes easily to her. You can also talk with your teen’s teacher to explore more of her strengths; there may be some that you don’t know yet, that the teacher will have noticed in class. You can also look at her grades, or at the time, energy, and enthusiasm that she puts into the different classes while doing homework. Keep in mind that those things that are easy for her might be her talents, and can turn into a career.

Together write a list of what she's good at and try to relate them to tasks that involve working with people, things, data, or ideas. Is she good at making things by hand? She might have a talent for working with things. Is your teen the life of the party? Then working with people may be her talent. If she prefers to spend time alone, she might have a natural inclination to work with ideas. Maybe math comes easily to her; if so, then working with data might be her thing!

Finally, it’s important to remember to give your teen the freedom to explore her talents, without imposing your own expectations or judgments on them. After all, that’s what this is about: finding her talents, whatever they may be, so that they can develop and use them throughout their career and life.

2. Ask about interests.

Knowing what your kid is good at is one part, but to help her find a career you also want to consider what her interests and passions are. If she knows, make sure you know that as well. But if not, encourage her to think about things she enjoys spending time doing, what she reads in her free time; even the kind of TV shows and characters she likes most can help her imagine working in different jobs. Ask whether she prefers to work with ideas, things, data, or people, independent of her talents. Some people are naturally good at math but may love working with people, not with data.

Encourage your kid to look for opportunities to try new things; you can find camps in many areas and summer programs that can either be free or that may offer scholarships. It is completely natural not to know what one is passionate about; taking these steps can help you both to discover it. So bring careers into your conversations!

The basic idea is to help your teen realize where her talents and interests intersect.

3. Match talents and interests.

Use the World-of-Work Map to explore careers based on tasks that involve working with ideas, things, data, or people to find out what a career path might be.

This is how you can use the World-of-Work Map to explore careers: For example, if your teen enjoys spending time using a computer, she might be interested in careers that relates to working with things. If you browse careers that are related to things in the map, you’ll see careers such as computer programming, game designer, and website developer; all of these might be a good career fit for her. The beauty of the World-of-Work Map is that it not only lists the careers, but you can also access information on that specific career, such as the typical salary and degrees required to get a job in that field. Even more, if that career isn’t exactly a perfect fit, you can see related occupations and majors. Remember to specifically explore several careers that are in the regions that your kid selected on the map.

World Of Work Map

Of course, your student may change his or her mind many times when it comes to what career to pursue as an adult, which is entirely normal. In spite of that, this should be your outcome: to be able to say with certainty what it is that your teen wants to be, and to know the path it’s going to take to get there.

My teen wants to be a  ____(career)________, and she’ll have to study ____(related major or majors)____________ to get a job she'll love!

Have a question? Let us know.
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