It’s Never Too Early for Your Child to Begin Paving Their Career Path
When many young adults enter the workforce, they are met with a difficult paradox: they need to get work experience, but in order to get that experience, they need to already have experience. To help the young person in your life work around that challenge, we’ve put together three ways you can help prepare them for their future careers.
1. Think about job training in more abstract terms.
When people hear the phrase “career prep,” they likely think about courses in a specific discipline or vocational schools. Courses and schooling are certainly important; however, those are not the only options. Preparing for a career does not just mean learning a specific trade. It can mean anything from gaining exposure to a wide array of different pursuits to volunteering within the community. Participating in a “take your child to work day,” for example, could expose young people to different fields while also providing a way to connect with their parents. Like exploring different careers, volunteering also has benefits beyond its relationship to an eventual job hunt. Yes, volunteering helps young people with their future resumés, but according to a study, volunteering can actually raise teens’ self-esteem.
2. Focus on building their intrinsic motivation.
People are much more likely to succeed academically and professionally if they are intrinsically motivated. Rather than trying to offer extrinsic motivation like rewards, you can help your child become intrinsically motivating by supporting their interests as they develop. In the future, the child regularly sitting our with her lemonade stand might become an entrepreneur, or the boy who’s tutoring his younger sibling may become a teacher. Nurturing as many different paths as possible will ensure that your child is pursuing the path that aligns with their interests and passions. Few people know which career path they would like to take until well after they’ve graduated from high school, or even college. Consequently, it’s important to acknowledge that your child’s career path may look more like a winding road than a highway.
Adults typically spend one-third of most days working, so it’s important to help your child find motivation to succeed within themselves. This will help them while they’re in school, as well as in their careers. Employers know how important intrinsic motivation is, which is why many management styles focus on developing intrinsic motivators like pride in one’s work instead of relying on extrinsic motivators like punitive policies.
3. Talk about the future without forgetting about the present.
Many parents can attest to the experience of their kids growing up overnight. One day, you’re helping your kids tie their shoes, and it feels like the next day, you’re sending them off to college. While it’s important to cherish these childhood years, it’s just as important to remember that when they’re leaving the nest, the better they’ve learned how to fly on their own, the better they’ll be equipped for their next journey.
One way to think about the future without losing sight of the present is to change the way you discuss your child’s career path. If you celebrate their current interests and pursuits without tying them to one specific career, they’ll be more flexible when it comes time to actually choose a career. Each child is unique and has gifts that should be celebrated beyond how much those skills prepare them for a particular job. Additionally, parents who overtly push particular pathways on their child are more likely to experience pushback from their teenager. Rebellion is a natural stage of teenagers’ psychological and social development, and when parents try to control that rebellion by intruding on their teenager’s sense of independent, teenagers are less likely to abide by their parents’ well-intentioned wishes.
Young people can also prepare by choosing a wide range of internships or taking different kinds of career prep classes with the knowledge that they may end up doing something else entirely. Helping prepare your child for adulthood isn’t easy, but when you see that they’ve found a sense of purpose and contentment in their career one day, it’ll be well worth it.
AnnElise Hatjakes is a contributing writer for Learning Liftoff. Her career in education began in 2010 when she worked as a teaching assistant while earning her master’s degree in writing. She has taught in a wide range of educational settings, including a public school, a school for gifted students, a university, and a county jail. She’s interested in issues of equity in education, which she strives to address through her own teaching practices and writing. AnnElise is the recipient of the University of Chicago’s Outstanding Educator Award, and her fiction has appeared in literary journals. As a third generation Nevadan, she loves all things Western, from wide open spaces to wild horses.