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Help Your Teens Get to Know Themselves

In the first step of the career planning process, your teens gather information about themselves. It helps to have an outside perspective from someone who knows them well—and this is where you come in.

Teens may have a hard time pinpointing their strengths and interests. They may not see that what they enjoy doing can launch them on a fulfilling career path. Your role is to encourage your teens to “tune in” to their interests, values, beliefs, skills, strengths, learning styles, and preferred lifestyle.

This exercise is important: people who choose occupations that match their personalities tend to enjoy their work. They also tend to achieve their career and personal goals.

Help uncover interests and passions

Be curious! Ask questions that will help your teens identify their likes and dislikes and what is important to them. Ask positive, focused questions that will help them examine their preferences, talents, and abilities. Your teens will begin to see patterns and possibilities. Here are some examples:

  • What’s your favourite subject at school? Why?
  • What did you like about working on a particular project or activity?
  • What was challenging?
  • What have you done that you’re proud of?
  • Have you ever watched someone work and thought, “That’s my dream job”?
  • Is there something you’ve always wanted to do but were afraid to try?

Some teens may have more success reflecting on these questions by writing in a journal rather than having a discussion.

Another way for teens to gather information about themselves is through formal tests or self-assessment inventories. Your teens may have completed such a test or inventory at school.

Encouraging your teen to try some online personality tests can also be a fun way to start the conversation.

Match activities and hobbies to careers

How your teens spend their time is a clue to what they enjoy and are good at.

Are they studious or athletic? Involved in student politics or in a band? Do they talk about how such interests might fit into their career plans?

Ask probing questions to find out what attracts your teens to their favourite pursuits and get them thinking about related occupations that might interest them.

For example, if your teen loves basketball, you could have a conversation that goes like this:

  • What would you like about playing basketball as an occupation?
  • What other careers have basketball players gone on to after basketball?
  • Do any of these other careers interest you?

If your teen enjoys playing music, your conversation might go like this:

  • What are the benefits of making a living as a musician?
  • When a musician makes an album and goes on tour, a lot of people are involved. What are some of their occupations?
  • Do any of these other occupations interest you?

You might also watch these videos on alis together to see how other teens have found career inspiration in their hobbies.

Help them identify and build essential skills

One of the main concerns that teens have about entering the workforce is that they feel unprepared. You can build your teens’ confidence by identifying their talents, helping them recognize the skills they have, and talking about the ones they want to develop.

We often don’t know where our skills lie until someone else sees the value in what we do. Be observant and generous with your praise. Point out successes your teen can see, such as improved grades and contributions to the lives of others.

Encourage your teens to develop skills and competencies that will be valuable throughout their working life. Professionals and employers have identified 9 essential skills for success in work, learning, and life.

Core skills—like reading, math, and communication—are the foundation for learning other skills needed for success in the workplace. Learning new skills makes it possible for people to evolve with their jobs and adapt to change.

Use career maps to see the big picture

A career map can help teens lay out the information they gather about themselves to create a vision of the future. During the career planning process, they can refer to this map to help them make good choices and choose the best options for reaching their goals.

Prompt your teen to envision the future

Ask your teens to think about where they want to be when they are 30 years old. Encourage teens to dream—to create a vision of what they could be in an ideal world rather than thinking about barriers. Here are some questions to consider:

  • What will their personal priorities be? Self-fulfillment? Income? Security? Family?
  • Will they have a house? Where will they live?
  • Will they be in a relationship? Married? Will they have any children?
  • What will they do for fun, and what will make them happy?
  • What will their work life look like?
  • Will they work in an office or from home?
  • Will they have their own company?

Next, work with your teens to map a route to where they want to be when they’re 30. Draw out the path and mark the various places where they will stop along the way. Include school, jobs, travel, volunteer work, and other things they want to do or achieve.

Bring your own career map to the conversation

Make a map of your own career path. Try to remember events, interactions, or opportunities that happened along the way. How did you arrive at your current job? Compare your map with your teens’ map and have a discussion:

  • Where did you begin?
  • Are there some useful experiences you could share?
  • What changes in direction have you made to your career path and why?
  • Life does not always go as planned—what did you do to figure out a “Plan B”?
  • Where are you now? Looking back, how do your values, interests, skills, and personality link to your current job?

As your teens come to understand themselves and their priorities, they can begin to explore careers that may be a good fit for them.

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