Written by: Nanny Secours
My son wanted to work in construction, like his grandpa. When my son was young, my father would take him along on little jobs and he loved it. But when my son started actually working in construction, his grandpa wasn’t there. What a letdown—without his grandpa there, construction was a lot less interesting! It paid well, but he wasn’t passionate about it. After a long period of soul-searching, directionless studies at college, travel, and life experiences, my son finally found his way as a sound technician.
It wasn’t easy for me to provide guidance for my son when it looked like he was floundering! It wasn’t much easier for his sister either, who was interested in everything, but didn’t stick with anything long enough to head down a path and follow it through. I had to trust in them, their intelligence, their curiosity, and their feelings and give them the freedom they needed, while still setting clear boundaries. I found out that helping your children choose a career is an art. An art that you learn “on the job,” as it were.
From the age of 15 on, kids need to start making choices that will open doors for them—or close them! “Don’t know what to do? Take everything: with good grades in math and science, you can do whatever you want!” Easy, right?
But youths today want direction. They don’t want to study science if they aren’t interested in it and don’t know what they’ll do with it. Especially when most of them won’t ever need to use it and it’s hard to predict what career paths people will take these days. When I was in high school, being a midwife wasn’t a job you could do in Quebec, and now I have a friend who earns a living giving guided bird watching tours all over the world, so who knows what the future holds?
1. Listen to them. Really listen. Ask questions and get them to think about what aspects of certain careers interest them so you can suggest other ways to achieve those goals and get them to expand their horizons.
2. Encourage them to have different experiences and meet people from different backgrounds. That’s how they’ll discover their interests as well as their strengths and limitations. Remember professions that don’t require a college or university degree, like massage therapy, contracting, and truck driving.
3. Think about their talents and qualities: are they creative, organized, thoughtful, logical, well spoken, or good at bringing people together? Give them opportunities to demonstrate these qualities.
4. Push them—a little. Learn when to encourage and when to let it go. It’s an art, I’m telling you!
5. Set boundaries. “No, I don’t think playing video games helps you learn about yourself and figure out what you want to do with your life. Work, travel, do projects, experience things!”
6. Ease off. Some young people think they have to make one definitive choice and stick with it for the rest of their lives. But these days, people go back to school at age 30, 40, or even 70!
7. Remember: we learn from our mistakes. My daughter once said to me, “I had to go find out who I wasn’t to learn who I am.”
8. Remember they can always start over. It isn’t such a big deal if your child goes back for required prerequisites or changes programs.
9. Research online. There’s no end to the tools and websites out there with advice and and info on unusual jobs.
10. Take your child to see a guidance counsellor. They can be absolutely excellent!
“When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said ‘happy.’ They told me I didn’t understand the question. I told them they didn’t understand life.” – John Lennon
And so, dear parents, I wish you happiness as you guide your children through this great adventure to help them achieve their dreams and find fulfilment in life!