Not all children know exactly what they want to be when they grow up. And while it’s perfectly fine if your child doesn’t talk about potential careers right now, it can’t hurt to encourage him to start exploring possibilities. In high school, it becomes especially important to have these conversations—don’t assume your child will discover the path for him without a little research along the way.
Here are a few tips on how to get your child thinking about the future—both college and career:
Start asking questions. Ask your child more than just what subjects she enjoys most in school. How about jobs that sound intriguing or fun, or topics that pique her curiosity and make her want to learn more? If your child doesn’t have ideas, help her brainstorm a bit. Go online together to check out possible careers that might blend your child’s love of math and music. Talk about the pros and cons of working in different fields and jobs.
Talk about college as a definite plan. You want to make sure your child goes to college? Talk about it like it’s not optional. That way, your child will believe that college is on the horizon and begin making plans to get there. This is also a good opportunity to impress upon your child the importance of working hard in school to get into a good college and prepare for the rigors of college academics.
Visit colleges. If there is a college in your town or close by, take your child there for strolls or picnics, to sporting and theater events, or any opportunity to expose your child to the collegiate environment. Check out any camps or classes for children. Take your child to visit your alma mater if feasible, and point out your dorm and the buildings where you spent time learning and taking classes.
Try lots of different things. You never know what activity or pastime will light your child’s fire. Get your child involved with a nonprofit. Have him shadow family friends at their jobs. Go to music concerts, lectures and movies as a family. If your child has the chance to do something unique, encourage him to go for it.
Get involved in extracurricular activities. Encourage your child to try out different clubs and activities in and outside of school—even those that seem like a departure from his usual choices of pastime. Debate team, student government and the school newspaper are obvious career-relevant options, but your child might discover his passion as a peer tutor, in the choir or the recycling club, or working as a teacher’s aide.
Take a strengths finder. College career centers are a great resource to help students explore their strengths, determine career-related interests, and find career choices. But there are all kinds of different strengths finders out there that will help your child understand herself and guide her in a direction even earlier. Do an online search to see what you find.
Remember: you are your child’s greatest influence and can help guide him toward promising college majors and career paths—or at least help him formulate ideas. Talk about college in your home. Make it sound exciting and worthwhile. Invite your child to try new things, delve into ideas, ask big questions and seek to find the answers. Start early, and by the time your child reaches high school, he’ll be eager to plot his future.