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Helping Your Child Choose a Career Path

The questions and topics to start the conversation

Person deciding which path to take.
Conversation Tip: Encourage your child's self discovery.

Image caption: Conversation Tip

Future Career Considerations 

Don't wait until the last minute to start these types of discussions with your young adult. Starting their sophomore year, your student should start having a better understanding of what their interests are. Here are some questions to guide your conversation:

  1. Help them narrow down what aspects matter most 

Encourage "strength spotting"; this is where your teen will outline their strengths and explore their skills. Whether your child wants to make a difference through nonprofit work or be the next NASA engineer, every person chooses their path for their skillset. Check out JA My Way™ for tools and tips to help your student discover possible careers.

  1. Determine what specific goals they want to accomplish in a career (income, making a difference, thrill of a challenge, etc.).

With the skills that your child has found in the previous step, dig deeper into what "fuels" them. Do they feel rewarded by helping others? Making a lot of money? Using their creativity to create something? There is no right or wrong answer.

  1. Begin looking at what is out there 

Does your teen feel like they know what they want to do but aren't sure about the position title? Instead of having your teen list specific careers, have them look through the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook. This will provide details and descriptions of jobs within specific career categories.

  1. Mentorship

If you know someone in the field your teen wants to explore, offer to connect them! Most professionals are happy to grab a coffee and sit down to discuss their industry. Don’t know anyone in the industry your student is interested in? Check out JA’s Career Speaker Videos here.

Once Your Child Has Determined a Career Path 

Congratulations! Your child has determined a career (or a few) that they feel they will flourish in, but where do they go now? While this next topic may seem a bit more intense, as your student looking ahead at their future, they must start to narrow in on a work environment best suited for them to flourish.

According to Indeed, between the ages of 18 to 24, a person will change their job on an average of nearly 6 times. In the age range of 25 to 34, the average is 2.4 times, and from there, the average declines to 2.9 between 35-44. To get to the heart of directing your child to the right career path, it's essential to understand why the averages seem so high when it comes to career changes. An Indeed study conducted in 2019 found, of those surveyed, nearly half of the full-time U.S. workers made a dramatic career shift as in changed entirely different industries. Of the participants who reported not switching careers, 65% said they were thinking about it or had previously considered it. The top 5 reasons the participants reported changing careers were:

  1. Unhappy in previous job/sector (81%)

  2. Wanted more flexibility (79%)

  3. Desired more money/income (79%)

  4. Did not feel challenged or satisfied (78%)

  5. Wanted more opportunities for advancement (77%)

Nearly all of these factors are determined by location and company/ workplace culture. While your child is preparing for the workforce, it is crucial to have them start looking at companies that are leaders in the industry or who are up-and-coming. To start, have your child consider:

  • Where are they located? What are the pros and cons of moving to this area?

  • What values are important to me that a company should share?

  • What is the average income of someone starting out in my profession? What earning potential would I have with this company I'm looking into (Glassdoor is a great resource).

  • Where do I see myself 5, 10, 15 years after starting with a company? Does the company have a high turnover rate? 

While these questions are a great starting point, try to think back to how you felt as you began your career exploration. It's important to start these types of conversations early with your young adult. Not only will it provide context for their future, but it will enable them to examine their true interests and talents and start working towards a future that encompasses these aspects.


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