How to Help Your Child Choose a Career Path

Your child’s career dreams can be positively affected through simple planning techniques implemented during the span of days, or years, that lie between today and his future. Psychologist Erik Erikson theorized that as adolescents develop personal intellectual interests and moral reasoning skills they become autonomous, yearning to be independent and self-reliant as they consider what contributions they will make to themselves and society in adulthood. Making dreams a reality requires a bit more than simply making wishes.

Open a Dialogue

Talk with your child about his interests and goals. Allow him to share gifts and talents he considers interesting. Often parents are surprised to learn their child has goals that he has not shared with anyone. Encourage him and listen. Ensure him that a career is his choice and he is in control of his adult path. Ask questions to inspire creative ideas and take note for later encouragement. For example, ask him such things as: • What do you enjoy doing? • What qualities, gifts and talents do you possess and want to share in your daily life? • What skills will a job in that field require? • How will you attain those requirements? • Are you willing to commit to learning the skills necessary? • How could you learn more about the career? • Do financial compensations and schedule requirements fit your lifestyle goals?

Build a Bridge

Now that your child has an example of what things to ask himself about career ideas and has narrowed down some criteria he may not know, bridge the gap between what he "K" knows, what he "W" wants to know and what he has "L" learned by asking him to create a KWL chart. For each career idea, ask him to list the answers to the sample questions, as well as anything specific on the chart. As he moves toward learning more, he can modify the chart. Make it fun. For example, call it a treasure map to find his future fortune and success.

Seek Professional Advice

As your child builds on ideas, seek a career guidance and counseling program 3. The U.S. Department of Education states everyone benefits from the resources, including youth, adults, all genders, those who are disabled and disadvantaged, minorities, English-language learners, incarcerated, drop-outs, single parents, displaced homemakers, teachers, administrators, parents and employers 3. The programs are available locally and online. They also are often available at most of the following places: • Elementary, junior and high schools • Colleges and universities • Technical institutes • Career resource centers • Correctional facilities • Community and business organizations • Human Services agencies • Skill clinics and placement services

Building Career Skills

The US Department of Education describes the positive side of utilizing career guidance and counseling programs 3. These programs can help your child develop the knowledge, skills and experience necessary to identify his career options, explore alternative ideas and prepare for him for the workplace. These include: • Teaching labor market changes and complexity of the workplace • Broadening knowledge, skills and abilities • Improving decision-making skills • Increasing self-esteem and motivation • Building interpersonal effectiveness • Maximizing career opportunities • Improving employment marketability and opportunities • Promoting effective job placement • Strengthening employer relations

Do the Homework

This is more interesting than it sounds because this assignment involves your child learning more about himself. Locate a trusted career test website such as and take the career test challenge. These tests are reliable and screen for personal skills, interests and qualities that help your child hone in on a career field that best matches his attributes. Ensure he answers with honesty and reflection as the results are only as reliable as the answers. Don’t lose sight of the fact that adolescents are developing and changing, so prepare for career interests to vary and flex. Roll with it because it is normal. Developing flexibility, building confidence and developing efficacy are part of the skills he will need in life.