As a parent, it can be difficult to know how to help your children, young or old, explore, choose and continue along any given career path. There is often an overwhelming desire to “help”—to make that choice for them (maybe because you wish you had pursued that career) or to push them into a career that makes money, without considering their innate skills, personality traits and what they actually enjoy doing (and sometimes what you’re good at isn’t what you enjoy doing!).
Here’s a few pointers for any age:
- Keep an open mind, and encourage your student to do so as well. True exploration, the ability to try out and learn about different occupations and to see where interests lie can lead to growth and development of skills, as well as a clearer definition of your child’s knowledge of themselves.
- If possible, encourage them to try out different options.
- Shadow a friend or family member for a day or week
- Take extracurriculars or electives on new subjects
- Attend a science, aeronautics or sports camp
- Help them to research online about what occupations exist, whether they have a direction they think they want to go or not
- Find a summer internship
- Work any job—serving fast food or working at a camp can provide your student with valuable “soft” skills, help their interpersonal and communication skills develop and can help them identify the type of work environment that is best for them. It also teaches them the value of money, responsibility and commitment.
For middle/high school students:
- Encourage them to speak to a guidance counselor if possible.
- Make sure they’re exploring STEM and creative courses at school. Also encourage them to research the intersection of the two.
For college students and new grads:
- Encourage them to visit their college/university career center. There area multiple resources to help in the job and internship search, but they can also help you develop your application documents (resume, cover letter, essays, etc.) and explore your career options. They usually also collaborate with employers to offer informational events to expose students to what is available. Alumni usually have access to these resources for at least some period of time.
- Recommend that they:
- Participate in something in each summer (coursework, jobs, research, study abroad, etc.)
- Seek an internship in the field of their choice (or multiple in different fields)
Best exploration tools for students:
- Self reflection/Assessments: See the Career Tests and Assessments page for links to reflection exercises. Think about also doing a values sort. You can find a bunch of options online, but it’s always good to have reflect on each experience they participate in (clubs, jobs, volunteer experience, etc.). Some questions to consider:
- What did I like and dislike about that experience?
- What skills did I gain?
- What do you do that energizes you?
- What impact do you want to have?
- Occupational research: See the Explore Careers section of this site. It gives you a listing a ton of different occupations and details about each. O*Net Online is another option, developed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, where you can research career options and the facts you might be looking for about each. It can also help you link similar careers to help expand your search.
- Conversation: Talk to as many people as possible about their jobs, whether that is through individual chats, career days, internships or other opportunities.