How to help your teenager to choose their ideal career


Many teenagers find it difficult to choose their career. It’s not surprising! After all, it is a difficult task for them with little life experience while having long lasting consequences. The good news is that there are ways in which you can support your teen to make good choices and there is help at hand.  

I know supporting them can be tricky as you may have one set of expectations and looking to get the job done. Your teenager may have another thought process and may even be too scared to choose. They even may not know where to find good information to help make that decision.

In this step by step article, I will show you how you can support your teenager in their career choices. Over time and with some patience you can spark the right conversations to get your teenager thinking in the right direction.

 

Step 1 – Understand their strengths

Ask them about their favourite subjects, getting into the detail if they will open up. For example, ask them what part of biology are they particularly interested in? Why does that interest them so much?

What hobbies do they enjoy and regularly do? What skills do they use for those hobbies?

Give them some observations about their skills, especially soft skills. Are they caring, are they good at showing a younger sibling how to do something? Let them know when they are displaying leadership qualities. What other skills do have?

 

Step 2 – What are their passions and life aspirations?

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By following your passions in life, work becomes much easier even when you have tough days. When you are working in a job you are not invested in, every day becomes so much harder. Here are some questions you can ask your teenager:

What motivates them to work hard?

Are they money and finance oriented or do they tend towards vocation type activities?

Do they like the outdoors/reading/computers?

Are they practical and love using their hands to create something or are you more likely to find them with their head stuck in a book?

Step 3 – How do they want to achieve their career?

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Most parents in Ireland want to see their kids go to college and get a good education but is this always the right option? There are plenty of options to get them where they want to go.

They can consider taking a practical route to their career such as an apprenticeship. Modern apprenticeships provide excellent qualifications including Honours Degrees and Masters Degree but do not cost the same as higher level education. The teenager also gets to earn as they learn while gaining valuable work experience. 

Your teenager may want to study full time but are they ready for independent study yet? A year working while living at home would give them that extra maturity or time to decide on their life time career. Young adults gain plenty of life and professional skills while working that those full-time students are yet to get.

By considering all options available, the teenager can get insights into paths that will best suit their needs, and career and life goals.


3 Tips to help the process

Tip 1 Ask open ended questions starting with what or how and wait for them to answer. Avoid prompting them or judging their answers.

Tip 2 – Understand that it is a process and takes time. Don’t expect a conclusive decision straight away. We all like to go away from deep conversations to reflect about what we have learned.

Tip 3 – If they are not happy to answer, let it go and come back to the conversation another time when you feel they are more inclined to engage.


External Expertise

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Photo by SHVETS production from Pexels

It is a difficult choice for students and many of them are afraid that they will get it wrong. While there are no guarantees that they will make the right choice, if they know themselves well, that choice will be as good as it can be.

If this conversation is too complex for you to have with your teenager, external expertise is a good alternative. For some people, it is easier to be more open with strangers than it is with family. 

For parents, there is a lot you too can learn about the careers choice process. Inform yourself how the CAO works on their website (click here) and all the higher education courses on the Qualifax website (click here)

You can also join my online course for parents that runs right throughout the year and meet other like-minded parents going through the same process. This course provides all the important information a parent needs to support their son or daughter going through the Leaving Cert Year - click here to learn more.

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Helen Dillon - Careers coach for teenagers and young adults

Find out more About Me in my bio.