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Support Your Teens in Making Career Choices

Armed with self-knowledge and research, your teens’ next step is to choose a path toward a meaningful, satisfying future. But for teens—as for everyone—making a decision can be hard.

You can help give them the confidence they need to move forward. Your teens don’t have to choose a specific occupation at this stage. The task is to identify a general career direction as a starting point.

Review the information your teens have gathered

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Guide

How to Choose a Career That Fits You

What do you want to be when you grow up? Now that you’re an adult or almost one, how do you actually get the answer to that question? This guide will show you how.

Encourage your teens to look at the options again and decide which factors are most important to them. Developing a list of pros and cons can help to narrow down the choices.

Discuss how each occupation fits with what your teens know about themselves and what they want their life to look like. For example, ask your teens how well each of their occupational choices rates when they consider the following factors:

  • What’s important to them
  • What their interests are
  • What skills they’ll use
  • What their income will be
  • What their lifestyle will be
  • What they’ll give up
  • What they’ll gain
  • What their needs are

If your teens created a career map in Step 1, this map can be a useful tool to help them evaluate their choices against the priorities they have identified.

Share your own experience with career decisions

When the moment is right, you might also talk about the decisions you made in 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.

Think back to the way you saw your future when you were a teenager:

  • What did you want to be at your child’s age? What did you become?
  • What key decisions shaped your career path? How did you get where you are now?
  • What lessons did you learn from your experiences?
  • What changes would you make if you could?
  • What are the things you wouldn’t change?

Explain that your job has parts that match your preferences and parts that don’t. Talk about how you decided which preferences were most important.

Provide perspective and support

Major life decisions can be stressful. Reassure your teens that what they are feeling is normal. As you coach them through this step in the process:

  • Acknowledge your teens’ fears—remind them that career decisions aren’t carved in stone: they can always be changed later.
  • Encourage your teens to make short-term decisions that keep as many options open as possible.
  • Provide input and guidance while also respecting your teens’ autonomy in making their own choices.
  • Express confidence in your teens’ ability to make a decision that’s right for them. Remind them that often there isn’t just one “right” choice, but several good choices with different pros and cons.
  • Offer your support to help your teens plan the next steps.

High 5 your teens on the way to success

Canadian career experts created the High 5 messages. They’re based on the concept that the pathway of your education, work, and life is not a straight line, but a work in progress.

You can apply these messages as you explore career and life decisions with your teens. You may want to talk to your teens about times in your own life when these ideas were important to you.

1. Change is constant

Change is happening faster than ever before. Information, globalization, and new technology, from smartphones and social networking to artificial intelligence and automation, are transforming the world. They are also changing how we work.

Your ability to manage change—to be flexible and stay open to opportunity—is a vital skill.

2. Follow your heart

Though some people know from early in life that a particular passion will guide their career, many do not—and that’s OK! But when things around you change, knowing your values, interests, and dreams can help keep you on your career path. Your vision for where you want to go gives you the energy to go after what you want. That vision may change over time, but if you stay in touch with yourself, you’ll find your direction.

3. Keep learning

Learning is lifelong. It takes many forms and happens in all kinds of environments. Learning is an essential tool for managing change. It helps you keep up with new developments in your field and in society. School, or formal learning, is one part of learning. Informal learning about yourself, your life, and your opportunities happens all the time. If you stay open to people and experiences, you’ll keep learning.

4. Focus on the journey

Each step shapes the next step in your life’s journey. Goals are important, but focussing too much energy on far-off goals can keep you from adapting to the changes and challenges happening right now. If you can see the day-to-day detours in your life as a chance to check out different directions, you’ll benefit from all your experiences. You may find opportunities you would have missed otherwise.

5. Be an ally

As more of our work and other activities go digital, personal connections are even more important. Stay in touch with people, both online and offline. Make new contacts. Learn through talking with others.

The people you know—family, friends, co-workers, and teachers—are on a career journey as well. They may be willing to share ideas, skills, and resources. Sometimes you’ll ask for assistance, but sometimes you’ll provide it. Either way, being an ally is an appropriate and enriching way to relate to people in your network and community.

Once your teens have identified a promising direction, they can move forward and take action.

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