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Career Coaching Your Teens: Exploring Possibilities

You can help your child learn about different occupations, industry sectors and opportunities. Find out how to be your child's career coach.

As a parent, you are a guide or coach for your teens as they move through the career-planning process. You can help by being curious, observant and generous with your praise, paying attention, acknowledging your teens’ fears and expressing confidence in their abilities.

Career planning is a cycle people repeat many times during their lives. Almost everyone follows the same 4 steps over and over again, building each time on life experience gained.

Step 1: Get to know yourself.
Step 2: Explore the possibilities.
Step 3: Make a choice.
Step 4: Make it happen.

Step 1: Get to know yourself is the foundation for all other career planning steps. Encourage your teens to explore their skills, values and interests if they haven’t already done so. CAREERinsite has a number of quizzes to help your teens understand their own skills and interests.

The suggestions in this article will help you coach your teens through Step 2: Explore the possibilities. Armed with information they have gathered in Step 1, your teens are ready to dig more deeply into a variety of industry sectors and occupations.

Research industry sectors

Suggest your teens focus on an industry sector rather than on specific occupations to come up with a list of options that reflect their interests. A sector is a group of occupations that require similar skills, values and interests. For example, hospital administrator, physician and nurse’s aide are all occupations within the health care sector.

Expanding their thinking from occupation to sector will help your teens stay open to possibilities. For example, if your teens have a passion for film or music, you could suggest they research the entertainment industry to discover the range of occupations available in that sector. Likewise, if they are intrigued by computer programming, suggest they check out the information technology sector. Encourage your teens to keep track of the occupations that attract them in each sector.

Learning about sectors will also help your teens to prepare for the many employment transitions they will likely encounter in their careers. Employment transitions happen when people change their work or when their working conditions change around them. It’s estimated that your teens are likely to experience an average of 17 employment transitions in their working lifetimes. Developing a sector-wide view will help them stay flexible and adapt to change.

ALIS offers an Industry Outlooks page with links to current and emerging sectors.

Check out occupations

Many print and electronic resources offer information to help you and your teens check out or pre-screen occupations to see if they might be a good fit. Your teens may become curious and want to learn more about a particular occupation or sector or eliminate it from their list of possibilities.

OCCinfo includes detailed information for more than 550 occupations available in Alberta. You can refine searches by field of study, industry, employment outlook and other filters.

Each occupational profile describes:

  • what the occupation is like
  • how people get started
  • what people earn
  • what opportunities are available.

Encourage your teens to try searching a sector or occupation that interests them.

Take advantage of emerging sectors and occupations

Knowing their skills and interests will help your teens identify a sector or an occupation that they want to explore. At that point, they are in a good position to take advantage of emerging opportunities.

For example, your teens may like video games and love to draw. They might be keen to work as video game artists or animators but believe there are very few opportunities and no post-secondary programs in the field in Alberta.

A little research will show them that it is possible to work as a video game animator in Alberta. For more information about this option your teens can:

  • click on the Occupation tab in the search box at OCCinfo and enter Animator
  • click on the Education tab in the search box at OCCinfo and enter Animation.

Talk to people who work in an occupation

A great way for teens to find out if an occupation is a good fit is to interview people who are working in the field. These people can describe what their daily work involves and what the highs and lows might be. They can tell your teens about changes and trends in the occupation and answer questions about their own career paths. They may even invite your teens to do some job-shadowing.

As your teens’ coach, you can help them learn more about the sectors and occupations that attract them by finding people in your network who work in or have contacts in those areas. You can also help your teens practise their interview skills.

Get experience in sectors and occupations

You may be able to help your teens gain hands-on experience in the occupations and sectors that look like a good fit. Encourage your teens to:

  • accept a job-shadowing offer from the people they interview or to request one, if they feel comfortable doing so
  • attend orientation events offered by post-secondary programs and institutions that look promising
  • volunteer in a sector that interests them
  • enrol in a non-credit course related to a sector or occupation of interest
  • take a gateway (entry-level) job in the sector, part time or during the summer. An entry-level job will help them get first-hand experience, make additional contacts and learn more about skills and attributes they will need to succeed in the field.

Be your teens’ career coach

As a parent, you are in a great position to be your teens’ career coach. When you are involved with your teens, the opportunity to talk about career and life planning often happens naturally. Use your experience and your network to introduce them to people, opportunities and information that will help them explore a range of possibilities and move towards their dreams and goals.

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