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Parents: How to Help Your Teen with Career Planning

Young peoples’ ideas about careers change as they mature. Read this article to get ready for your teen’s questions and find ways to offer support.

Your teen’s questions will change with age:

  • What courses should I take next year?
  • How do I figure out what to do after high school?
  • How do I decide what I want to be?

How you handle these questions is important. A 2009 survey asked Canadian teens to identify their greatest influences. Eight out of 10 named their fathers. Nine out of 10 named their mothers.

As a parent, you’re in a unique position to support and encourage your teen’s plans for the future.

Recognize your teen’s ages and stages

You want to respond the best way you can to your teen’s questions about careers, education and work. Here’s some useful information about teenagers’ stages of development:

  • Early adolescents (about ages 11 to 13) are influenced by what their friends think. They focus on themselves. They know what they can and cannot do well. Many think university is their only option for post-secondary education. You can help your teen begin to explore the many kinds of post-secondary programs. A good place to start is OCCinfo’s educational programs.
  • Middle adolescents (about ages 14 to 16) are more apt to believe in their own abilities when they’re visible or measurable. Two examples are scoring a goal in soccer or getting a part in a play. If they don’t find school socially or academically rewarding, they may think about dropping out early. Build self-confidence by helping your teen set achievable goals. When the time comes for high school, encourage your teen to take courses that are needed for many post-secondary programs. That keeps your teen’s options open.
  • Late adolescents (about ages 16 to 21 for girls, 17 to 21 for boys) are more aware of who they are. They are also less influenced by what other people think. Their interests may deepen. They may also experiment by changing programs or jobs. These kinds of changes are normal at this stage. Encourage your teen to check out the options with a career and education planning tool like CAREERinsite.

Think about the world of work your child will experience

Your teen may be facing some of the same social challenges and decisions you did at that age. But your teen is also preparing for a world of work that will be very different.

Most of today’s youth are expected to experience:

  • an average of 17 job changes in their work lives
  • various occupations in up to 5 different industries
  • planned and unplanned gaps in employment

Two out of 3 new jobs in Alberta in the 21st century will require post-secondary training. Many of the occupations today’s youth will pursue have not yet been created. For example, just a few years ago, the growing field of social media marketing did not exist. What can you do to help your teen?

Learn about the career planning process

Help your teen prepare for the world of work by learning about career planning. Career planning is a lifelong process, but most people follow the same 4 steps. Then the cycle repeats, and they build on their life experiences each time. The steps are:

You can help your teen navigate these steps if you understand what happens in each of them.

Encourage teens to get to know themselves

Our children learn about their strengths and weaknesses through their own positive and negative experiences. Try these tips to help your teen grow in self-knowledge:

  • Acknowledge when your teen does something right, like being dependable and honest.
  • Point out successes your teen can see, such as improved grades.
  • Notice when your teen makes mistakes. But try not to judge or blame. Instead, talk with your teen about what they could do differently next time.

Help them explore the options

Career experts agree that youth is a time for exploring. Even older teens may not be ready to choose an occupation or post-secondary program. Children discover their strengths, skills and interests by exploring what’s possible:

  • Help your teen develop communication, problem-solving and teamwork skills. Encourage school activities, volunteering and part-time jobs.
  • Support your teen’s commitment to sports, arts and leadership activities.
  • Help your teen find chances to talk to family members, friends and others about the work they do.

Support your teens as they make their choice

As a parent, you’re in a great position to help your teen start the career planning process. You can encourage your teen to explore, and help them keep track of their developing interests and skills. When the moment is right, you can talk about your own career path. This can help your teen see career planning as an ongoing process rather than as a high-pressure, one-time choice.

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