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I am a working parent of a 16-year-old high school student who is struggling to figure out a meaningful career path. He has pressure to start choosing his courses for next year, which will be his last year of high school. He has expressed an interest in going to university. My son has asked me for a career direction and to help him decide what he wants to be when he grows up. I have no clue as to how to help him. Do you have any career advice for him?
Signed: My kid’s future
Research shows that early career awareness and work experience for youth are indicators of possible employment (http://respectabilityusa.com/2015/05/wioa-implementation-employment-first-planning-tool/). Many high schools and post-secondary institutions offer these educational opportunities to their students. However, according to JVS Toronto’s career counselor and facilitator, Dorota Hejnrych, more often than not, these students turn to their parents for career advice. For many parents this is an overwhelming task because they do not know the current labour market as well as future predictions and what is required for their child to make informed decisions. Choosing a suitable career path involves understanding one’s strengths, interests (job related and hobbies), motivating factors, labour market trends, lots of encouragement, an open mind and a simple action plan, advises Hejnrych. She adds that that a suitable career and future employment opportunities are critical for an individual’s personal growth, confidence and self-esteem.
Hejnrych works with many parents in her practice and offers the following five strategies to help with their children’s career development, especially if these types of workshops are not offered in the school.
- Career exposure. Help your children learn about as many careers as possible. Bring them to your workplace for a day. Encourage your children to talk to as many people as possible in your network, as well as in their network such as the teachers, school staff, and don’t forget their friends’ parents and their network. Help them find out what different people in your family or different professionals in your life do for a living. For example, have your child arrange an information interview with your family doctor, your dentist, your banker, and your lawyer, local politicians, police officers, to name a few. They could experience the real working world through a volunteer experience, especially if they need community hours for school. Part-time work is also important to learn about the working world and to start building a professional network with co-workers and managers.
- Identify talents. Again, through part-time work while in school, participating in extra-curricular activities, joining clubs, school teams, and/or volunteering, are important opportunities for your child to start to understand and learn about who they are and what are their talents, passions, skills and strengths as well as values that can translate into a career path with your guidance.
- Course and program selection. High school is a great place for your child to explore, learn and investigate different career paths. By encouraging your child to take different courses during or after school, you can keep his or her options opened as much as possible. Encourage your child to engage in broadening experiences by engaging in new hobbies and learning new soft skills (for example, problem-solving) and technical skills in addition to gaining as much knowledge and information as possible. In today’s reality, it is not simply enough to study what one finds interesting. Hejnrych recommends to students to choose a diploma/degree in the area that best fits their interests, and strengths that can be eventually be turned into a paycheck!
- Support self-sufficiency. Hejnrych recommends assisting young adults in facilitating information interviews. Don’t do it for them! Letting your child do as much as possible on their own facilitates another important transferrable and soft skill in the working world! Once they learn the art of researching and asking key questions, they will be far more equipped in their careers and job search.
- Be flexible. It’s not always about finding that perfect career path or a job, concludes Hejnrych. It’s about looking for the optimal fit for the current labour market. For some, it might be a full-time job, Monday to Friday; for others, it might be two part-time positions in order to make a full-time living. Encourage your child to look for career paths that are suitable now and support your kids to be lifelong learners. What works now, will not necessarily work later! Prepare them for a career plan and job skills that are transferrable, adaptable, and flexible. Also, focus on those soft skills training such as working in a team, being organized and multi-tasking so they will be ready to work in the labour market that they will be facing one day when they are adults looking for work.
To submit your questions and comments to this column IN CONFIDENCE, please email Reena’s Employment Resource Specialist, Joanna Samuels, at email@example.comProfile: Joanna Samuels, M.Ed., CMF, CTDP, RRP is the Employment Resource Specialist at Reena with an expertise in job development, job coaching, and workshop facilitation with people with disabilities and multi-barriers as well as staff training. Also, Joanna helps employers with diversity recruitment and selection, is a published author, advice columnist, and guest speaker; as well as a certified Life Skills Coach, and certified Personality Dimensions Facilitator.