Parents often have ideas of what types of careers their children should consider once they approach college, but they are, of course, quite biased. Although adults have a lifetime of experience to draw from, they really only know their own career journey well. Parents’ intentions might be good when they suggest possible college majors and career paths, but it’s more important that they put their teens in the driver’s seat and guide them from the sidelines.
“Understandably, parents want to compel their teens to get serious about their futures as early in high school as possible, but this can be overwhelming and counterproductive for students,” says Eileen Huntington, CEO and Co-Founder of Huntington Learning Center. So, what’s the best way to help teens explore the possibilities and discover the best career for them? Huntington offers these tips:
Ask more than just, “What do you want to do?” Sure, some teens have known what they want to do from the time they were in third grade, but for those who haven’t discovered that yet, it’s fruitless and frustrating to be asked the question over and over—they simply don’t know yet. Instead, parents should ask their teens about school and extracurricular experiences that make feel fulfilled and productive. Try questions like, What subjects are you best at? In school and life, when do you feel most successful? and Are there any jobs you’ve heard of that sound interesting to you?
Springboard from the strengths. While teens might recognize that they are skilled at science and math, they might not understand what careers would suit their strengths. This is where a career assessment might be useful, and the school guidance counselor might have recommendations—or parents can search online for options like ACT Profile, a college and career planning platform that helps students identify majors and occupations that might fit their interests and abilities. The College Board’s Big Future Major and Career Search tool is also a great resource for teens who know what they’re good at but aren’t sure what careers best highlight those assets.
Encourage them to talk to real-world professionals. Sure, an internship in college is a great way to get hands-on experience in a field, but high school is a good time to figure out what career options appeal. Teens who are interested in medicine might spend time volunteering in a hospital or talking with a physician in private practice. Those convinced that acting is their calling can reach out to a local theater company and ask to talk to some of the people who work there about their experience. Parents can encourage their teens to check out job shadowing (and similar) opportunities through their guidance counseling offices, or proactively set up conversations and experiences on their own.
Nudge them to get involved. Sports are an obvious extracurricular activity in high school, but teens should look beyond athletics for ways to get to know themselves. Many clubs and organizations lend members insights into different academic pursuits and careers. Look for clubs focused on math, science, entrepreneurship, journalism, foreign languages, debate, business, public speaking and art, to name a few possibilities. The hands-on nature of clubs fosters professional development while building responsibility and encouraging teens to think about their life purpose and future.
Huntington reminds parents that most people’s careers are not a straight, narrow path. “While parents want their teens to make the very most of the college investment, the real value in this process is that teens learn to assess their strengths and navigate their careers,” she says. “It’s never too early to begin thinking about one’s career plan, but life is a journey. Teens should explore opportunities, continually evaluate their strong suits, and keep an open mind as they move through their lives.”
Huntington is the tutoring and test prep leader. Its certified tutors provide individualized instruction in reading, phonics, writing, study skills, elementary and middle school math, Algebra through Calculus, Chemistry, and other sciences. It preps for the SAT and ACT, as well as state and standardized exams. Huntington programs develop the skills, confidence, and motivation to help students succeed and meet the needs of Common Core State Standards. Founded in 1977, Huntington’s mission is to give every student the best education possible. Learn how Huntington can help. For franchise opportunities please visit www.huntingtonfranchise.com.
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