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How You Can Help Your Teenager Choose a Career

Written by: Nanny Secours

November 9, 2020

Choosing a career: is it a matter of character, skills, ambition, motivation, or the result of a passion, a time of exploration?                                                                                                        

It’s not always easy to be a guide for your teenager! How can you help your child choose a career without imposing yourself or exerting an influence?

Nowadays, there are many careers to choose from, compared to a not-so-distant time (the 90s!) where the words “limited enrollment” were repeated over and over. In 2020, the word on everyone’s lips is “shortage.” Still, it’s not easier for today’s youth to know exactly which path is the best. Because there are so many choices now, teenagers have a harder time picking a career that will guarantee them a bright future.  

Here are 7 strategies to help you support your child through this transition.

Active Listening

First off, listen to your teen: see which careers he’s interested in, ask him questions, and discuss what’s motivating him to choose one path over another. You can watch videos and documentaries or read books and articles on the subject. Maybe your child knows someone in your social circle who practises this profession and who is a source of inspiration? Is this interest influenced by peers, is it a “trendy” choice or an impulsion? Regardless of where the interest stems from, the main thing is to be present and open to spark conversations and explore the possibilities with your teen.

Self-Knowledge

It’s a good idea to validate with your child how well he knows himself: what characterizes him, what makes him stand out, his personality traits. Help your teen identify the skills that would be a plus in the career he’s considering. This way, he’ll be able to identify his strengths and determine more easily what is or is not like him. For example, your child could draw up a list with two columns: one for the tasks associated to the job and one for the qualities required.

Personal Skills                                                                            

You can also determine with your teen the school subjects in which he does well. The goal is to look at the skills and not the grades on his report card. For instance, a student who’s good at public speaking and performs well during oral exams doesn’t necessarily get 90% or 100% in grammar. However, public speaking is a major asset for him.

This reminds me of a student who was passionate about cars. He’d acquired good experience in customer service by working part-time in a restaurant, where he was appreciated for his repartee. At school, he was getting good grades in oral exams and didn’t necessarily want to pursue a university education at that time. So, he enrolled in an auto sales training program. To this day, he excels in car sales and seems very happy with his choice, which hasn’t prevented him from also pursuing online studies in management and marketing. It looks like he found his calling!

Interests, Qualities and Values                                        

Your teen can take the time to list, in order of priority, his main interests, his qualities and the values that reflect who he is. For this exercise, your teen must rank in order of importance the work values he prioritizes. For example, it might be honesty, ambition, financial security, teamwork, acquisition of new knowledge, etc.  

Once your teen took the time to go over his interests and passions and he identified his strengths, it’ll be easier for him to pick a few programs he’s more interested in. Then, he can gather information on these by reading guides and visiting websites like the Career Handbook

Intern for a Day                                                               

It might be very interesting and eye-opening for your child to be an “intern for a day” in a workplace. This type of day can be organized by your teen’s school, a community organization, or you can use your own social network. It’s important as well that your teen visit various job fairs, whether in person or online. You can also reach out to people you know whose children currently attend or have attended a similar school or training program and invite them to discuss with your child.    

Seeing a Career Counsellor

Don’t hesitate to make an appointment with a career counsellor. This person can equip you with the necessary tools in a personalized way. Career counsellors provide information about the different programs and the characteristics of each school. They can also guide you toward what will best suit your child’s situation by taking into account every aspect of this transition: the level of education, prerequisites, student support services available, location of the school (e.g., near the family house or in another city). In short, career counsellors can adequately answer many of your questions and concerns. 

Overall, it’s possible that the choice your teen ends up making remain uncertain. It will maybe only be a time of exploration, but this experience will lead your child on another path… the right path!

Annie Martin                                      
Member of Nanny Secours