Help Your Children Discover Their Career

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Parents, well educated, perhaps even known as mentors in their chosen careers, often share with me their frustrations on not being able to connect with their children on the extremely delicate topic of careers. This is a HOT topic especially for parents of teenagers to 20’s.

It was easier in our times with fewer options – directly linked to your marks and not much to do with one’s interests. As careers explode, and people even create unique roles and make money out of the air, it just gets confusing for everyone. You are lucky if your kid has sorted this stuff by themselves. Whether it’s an engineer or a chef, if they have a grand passion, you just need to support them on their journey.

But what if, the child is living in the moment and does not want to face the reality of a career. You could have a hostile teenager and a tense atmosphere at home. Or you could have a great relationship with your kid, and both of you really want to decide on the right course, but don’t know what to do. In the scenarios described above and anywhere on the spectrum between them, chances are high you will go to a traditional career counselor who will subject the child, usually an unwilling subject, to a battery of tests, do an hour (read 30 mins if you are lucky) of counselling, explain a variety of courses and leave you there. That has its benefits for sure. But really, you could do all of that on the internet too.

I urge parents to sit back and look at the bigger picture. Life isn’t just about courses. It’s meant to be experienced. Life skills, right attitude and hard work are must for everyone.

I want to plant this seed in your mind now – Encourage your child to explore careers. It’s the season for summer breaks. Parents of 14+ kids in schools and colleges, please use this time wisely.

“If you leave doors open for them to explore,

They will find the right answers.” – Joyce Fetterol

1.      ENCOURAGE, DON’T PUSH

With a delicate hand, encourage your high school or college kid to explore career options. Definitely avoid words like commands – “you really need to be getting on with your career plans,” or “you must spend X no of hours in a week exploring careers.” All parents are guilty of this approach – getting work done in a day is not easy. In this scenario, such commands will definitely be counterproductive and lead to far reaching losses in trust and setbacks.

It is so easy to nag, and so difficult to just provide the tools and resources and sit back.

2.      LEVERAGE YOUR CONNECTIONS  

Ever wondered what Thomas Technologies really does? It would be a great idea to spend a day at Uncle Tom’s office. Let your friend/family member mentor your kid for a couple of days. Even large companies are often supportive of allowing a teenager to shadow someone. Your contact could definitely get the necessary permissions.

If you genuinely feel your child has a knack for say PR, why don’t you invite that friend whose son is in PR for dinner? Nothing like getting people talking in a relaxed setting. You may even want to brief your friend and his son beforehand, so that you don’t come across as demanding that your child has the conversation on PR – leave it to them to broach the subject.

Don’t leave leveraging your connections to chance. You have a purpose, and believe me 6 degrees of connections i.e. everyone is only 6 degrees away from each other, is true. Chances are within your 1st – 3rd connections, you will find enough relevant and helpful folks.

You need to pick up the phone and ask for help. You will get a great response.

3.      VOLUNTEERING / INTERNSHIPS / EXTRA CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES

Many organizations like ROTARACT, AISEC, SPIC MACAY and so many more help students with volunteering opportunities. Encourage your child to apply for them, depending on their interest.

There could be paid or unpaid internships often advertised in college or one could directly approach companies in fields one is interested in. Encourage your child to explore them. Your child feels event management is right up their sleeve, even though you have your reservations. Never say NO. Encourage them to go for an internship. Perhaps a month of standing in events and doing all the drudge work, may make them want to study harder for the prestigious mass communication course and avoid this drudge work. I mean no offense to event managers – they work very hard, but it’s not an easy field. If they are still in for it and you find that their work energizes them, motivates them to do their best, accept their choice and support them.  

 School clubs and events are a great way to test waters and help the child discover their strengths in a safe environment. Whether its science events or MUN or a sports, let the child decide their extracurricular activities and help facilitate the exploration.

4.      INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWS

Is your child interested in local government? My recommendation is that you could encourage and facilitate an informational interview. Seek support of your child’s school or college. Chances are you will find lots of interest. Your child can individually or in a team, interview the local government official. They may learn about potential interesting, related positions also. If interested, they will themselves explore how to apply and study for these positions.

5.      CONDUCT ONLINE RESEARCH

Google is our saviour!! Seriously in this day and age, some smart search strings can yield amazing results. You will find a wealth of information. Ask your child to search and educate you. Learn from them and don’t pretend to be an expert. Watch their confidence soar as they teach you. My recommendations:

  1. Perform a search string “A DAY IN LIFE OF <CAREERS>.” You will be amazed at the no of videos and articles excellent sources have hosted on the web.
  2. Career Center — A career exploration gateway sponsored by the University of California – Berkeley Career Center, which includes links to career profiles, guides and industry resources

6.      NETWORKING

Encourage your children to network. There are so many opportunities beyond the formal, job situation. Especially for college students, applaud them for making the extra effort to coordinate for an industry event and strike a conversation with attendees. Check in with them on the interesting stuff at campus and go beyond academics and jobs. Encourage them to talk to folks on the bus, train, and airplane. Guide them to ask folks for business cards and connect through LinkedIn.

Encourage them to not get intimidated and for parents of high school students, encourage them to have meaningful, social conversation.  Again, this is not about being introverted or extroverted. Encourage your kids to be interested in others, whatever may be the person’s level. This interest in others is again a lifelong skill, which will build their interpersonal skills and help them solve problems which make life easier for others, thus helping them build a strong personal equity.

I leave you with these thoughts for action.

My pet peev with traditional career counselling for kids is that it encourages them to think inside the box. As a career coach with real life experience in high stakes business environment, I do know that the box is over-rated. Fluidity in life scenarios means that adaptability, self management and EQ are more the need of the day. The era of square pegs in square boxes is over.

I would love to hear from you. Post your comments, thoughts. Lets discuss.

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