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7 Ways to Help Your Child Choose a Career

7 Ways to Help Your Child Choose a Career

Recently, a stranger told me his grandson was about to graduate from high school. He said, “I told him he needs to go to college and he should definitely be an engineer. Being an engineer is a great profession. Don’t you think he should be an engineer?”

“I’ve never met your grandson, and without knowing who he is, what his strengths are, and what he’s passionate about, I can’t say what career he would enjoy. I think it’s great when people choose a career where their strengths and passions combine,” I said.

He cocked his head sideways at me. “Hmmmph,” he scoffed. “Passion. Nobody’s passionate about their job. A job is a job,” he ranted.

I smiled at him, and politely disagreed, telling him that it is possible to do work you absolutely love.

When it comes to choosing a career, people are given all kinds of awful advice, including:

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“Choose the prestigious career.”

“Choose the career that will give you the most money.”

“Choose the safe path.”

“A job is just a job. Work isn’t meant to be fulfilling.”

“So-and-so likes her job, so you should do that too.” Or, the opposite: “So-and-so hates his job, so you should never do that.”

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We spend many hours each week, decade after decade, doing work. Doing work you love makes life much more fulfilling. Therefore, it’s imperative we do a good job of guiding and encouraging our children in their quest to find and do work they love.

According to this article, 80 percent of college students in the United States change their major at least once. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that college students change their major at least three times on average during their college career. Choosing a major, and changing it multiple times, can be a stressful time for students.

When students are in college, they frequently don’t have the life experiences or self-knowledge yet to choose a career path that will best fit them.

Thankfully, there are some things you can do to help your child navigate these decisions.

Here are some tips to help your child choose a career.

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1. Resist treating your child as an extension of you

Your child is a unique individual. They are not you. The things that might drive you absolutely crazy about a certain job might be the things they absolutely love doing. Resist the urge to tell your child to avoid a certain path just because it’s something that doesn’t interest you. Your child might not be interested in attending your alma mater or doing the work you do.

2. Help your child discover their strengths and passions

Encourage your child to visit with a career counselor to take aptitude tests. The Myers-Briggs test, Strong Inventory, and Holland Code were three of the tests I found beneficial when redesigning my career path. While I don’t recommend basing huge decisions off of one test, I do believe it’s very beneficial to take a variety of assessments and look for patterns among the results. If your child is interested in a career that doesn’t appear to line up with their natural strengths, that doesn’t mean you need to immediately rule out that option as a career. Instead, brainstorm how your child could bring their innate strengths to that field. Their uncommon perspective and strengths in that field could allow them to make a very unique, valuable contribution.

Have them take the strengths assessment in the book Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath. Pay attention to what comes easily to them that others seem to struggle with. Having a great understanding of their innate strengths will enable you to help them maximize these strengths. Also, help them figure out what lights them up. This is a free workbook to help people discover their passions. I encourage you to print it out and have each member of your family complete it.

3. Help find a mentor for your child

Seek a positive, encouraging role model for your child. If your child shows strong interest in a certain career path, help your child find an inspiring mentor in that field. Having a great mentor can fuel your child’s career aspirations.

4. Expose your child to a variety of activities to see what piques their interest

Give your child opportunities to try new activities. Expose them to nature, the arts, science, museums, animals, travel, people…there are so many opportunities to enjoy together. Pay attention to what piques their interest. If there is a subject they are curious about or they shows excitement toward, encourage them to learn more about that topic. Oftentimes, the decision to choose a certain line of work comes gradually, as people continue to explore their interests more deeply.

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5. Find your tribe, and encourage your child to find theirs

As Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” As a parent, have you built a wonderful tribe of people around you? And, are you encouraging your child to find their tribe? Challenge your child to get out of their comfort zone and get involved. Whether it’s sports, a service organization, a business club, or any of the many other possibilities, encourage your child to spend time with inspiring peers. Who your child chooses to hang out with can greatly affect how big they dream, what they believe is possible, and the opportunities they seek. Having an amazing tribe of people in their life will help them grow into their full potential and can affect many decisions they make.

6. Set a great example

Your child watches your every move, so work on being a great example of doing work you enjoy. When your child sees you building a career you really love, they will know that it’s possible for them to also find and do work they love. You’re never too old to spend more time doing what you love, so seek what lights you up and do more of what you love and less of the unimportant junk.

7. Be patient and encouraging

Remind your child that the quest to do work they loves is often a long process of self-discovery and experimenting. They may change course as they navigate their career path. Be patient with your child during these difficult decisions, and encourage them to keep learning more about themselves so they can keep growing into the amazing person they are meant to be.

Featured photo credit: Southern Arkansas University/https://flickr.com via flickr.com

More by this author

Dr. Kerry Petsinger

Entrepreneur, Mindset & Performance Coach, & Doctor of Physical Therapy

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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