Once your teens have chosen a career direction, they’ll need a plan to start moving in that direction. But the journey into the future may seem overwhelming.
You can help them break out what they need to do into specific, manageable tasks. Here are some ways you can get them started on their career path.
Work together on setting goals
When looking toward the future, it’s important to have a plan—even if that plan evolves over time. Setting goals will give your teens a concrete way to focus their efforts.
Here’s how you can help:
- Think about and set goals together with your teens. Talk about how accomplishing short-term goals is a stepping stone for achieving long-term goals.
- Choose a goal to work on together. What tasks can your teens do? What tasks require help from you?
- Discuss what to work on first and how you made that decision. For example, did you choose the first task because it was most important? Because it was time sensitive? Because it needed to be done before other tasks on your list could be completed? Use a calendar to mark out timelines and track progress.
- Be supportive when your teens encounter obstacles. Because teens lack life experience, problems that seem small to you may seem insurmountable to them.
- Encourage your teens to persevere when they face adversity. Help them find other ways to reach their goals.
Identify education and training requirements
For many teens, finding out what education and training they will need for their chosen career is a good goal to start with.
More and more occupations require considerable post-secondary training. However, university is only one of many educational options that opens doors to meaningful career opportunities. Learning is essential, but the way we choose to learn is flexible.
After high school, most teens choose one of the following paths to further learning:
- Post-secondary education or training at college, university-college, university, technical institutes, or private training institutions
- Finding work and learning on the job
- Taking a year off to work, travel, or just figure out their next steps
Each path has its own benefits.
Research post-secondary institutions
If the field your teens are interested in requires formal post-secondary training, here are some questions to think about:
- Which post-secondary institutions offer the programs your teens need?
- Which post-secondary institution is the best choice?
- Does it offer information sessions or open houses? If so, what are the dates?
- What are the prerequisites for acceptance into the program? What are the admissions quotas?
- Are there any special requirements? (For example, do applicants need tools or equipment? Experience? A career investigation report [pdf]?)
- What is the application deadline?
- Is funding available? Are your teens eligible for any scholarships? Do they need to apply for student aid?
- What are the application deadlines for scholarships or student loans?
If possible, take some time to tour colleges, universities, or other training facilities.
Support them in building a career portfolio
Most students will work on a career portfolio as part of their school requirements. A career portfolio is a place to store and organize information about their:
- Interests and personality, including formal and informal assessments of their interests and strengths
- Skills, including details about workshops, certificates earned, and specific skills mastered
- Accomplishments and awards, including achievements in school, work, or community activities
- Work and volunteer history, including a resumé listing all work and volunteer positions and responsibilities
- Career goals and the steps toward achieving them
- Letters of reference from people who can speak to your teens’ skills and achievements
- Research on occupations of interest, including summaries
- Details about schools, colleges, universities, training institutions, and programs of interest, including brochures or application forms
- Favourite resources, such as lists of useful websites and other information sources
As a parent, you can help by gathering artifacts of your teens’ accomplishments along the way. Keep a special box or file folder for report cards, writing samples, awards, and certificates. When the time comes for your teens to compile a portfolio, access to these items will be easy.
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Encourage your teens to talk about items they have chosen to include in their portfolios. This will build their confidence in their presentation skills and help them identify their strengths and passions.
Talk about finances
It’s never too early to start planning for the cost of a post-secondary education. And no matter what career path your teens choose, finances will be an important part of the picture.
Talk to your teens about how they can develop money skills like saving, budgeting, and creating a spending plan. The Pay for Your Education section on alis includes a number of general resources on financial literacy and money tips, as well as advice specific to paying for post-secondary education and training.
There are many ways to fund your teens’ education. Some involve saving money as your children grow. Others include loans, scholarships, and bursaries. Many students work part-time to fund their education.
Decide what you can do to help. Be clear about what you can contribute to finance their education as well as what you expect them to contribute.
Enjoy the journey
As you coach your teens through the career planning process, take the time to enjoy the journey you are taking together. Not only will your interest and support help your teen set a course for a successful and satisfying career, but the process of exploring the options for their future can be a meaningful way to bring you closer.