Ways to Help Your Child Find a Career Path
As adults and parents who are watching the job markets around us take more twists, turns, and plummets than an amusement park ride, trying to prepare our children for these challenges can be very daunting. Gone are the days when we just need to escort them to college, for practically any degree, and be confident they will come out the other side with a job that pays well and that the kids actually seem to like.
New numbers are showing a frightening trend for our youth: just 56% of those graduating with a four-year degree found a job that utilized their degree within 6 months of graduating. This is compared to 90% of graduates successfully finding work in 2006-2007. In another survey, only about ½ of college graduates said their first job required the college degree they not only worked so hard to get, but will be paying off for years to come.
Whether or not you fall into the category of those who think that everyone should have a college education, or those who feel that college is now a watered down version that holds little tangible, practical value, it is still important to help your children determine the path that is best for them. When I was growing up, my parents always told me and my siblings we didn’t have to go to college. We just had to do something after high school. Helping children find that something can be challenging, but there are some real-world ways to help them envision their future.
Help kids connect their education to possibilities and opportunities. If your child talks about becoming a mechanic, help him find programs for training and find out early on which high school classes will be needed to support those. Look through employment ads and speak with human resource officers with your children to see what types of qualifications employers seek, and at what pay levels.
Don’t Let Them Take the Easy Road
Don’t let your child take the cop-out on education and say early on that they don’t want to go to college so they don’t need to take more than 1 math class in high school. The truth is that no one knows for certain if college will be the right path in 3, 6, or 16 years. College doesn’t have to be the answer, but it is our job to make sure that if it someday becomes the chosen path that we made sure our kids were prepared to succeed.
Find Ways for Your Child to Job Shadow
Talk with your children about their interests and then help them find a real-world example of that job. If your son tells you he wants to be a sports reporter, go to the local radio or television station and see if he can shadow someone with that job title, and don’t do it on a day when there are lots of exciting things happening in sports. You want your child to have a realistic view of a typical day. My daughter is pursuing college for biology and has job shadowed people in their daily careers. This real world exposure is a valuable tool for children who are considering specific fields of work.
The best people to tell your children about specific work, jobs, and education are those who are in those direct fields. Don’t just limit it to one or two experts in your child’s current favorite – there is no magic age when our interests and abilities stop changing. Expose him to as many people as possible in various fields of work and encourage him to ask questions about expectations and experiences.
Attend Job Fairs
While job fairs won’t give your child real-world experiences in work, they will be one more way to connect her to local employers. The old adage seems to be even more true these days – it is not necessarily what you know, but who you know. Exposing your children to as many people who can help them find job possibilities is just one more positive step for the future.
Teach your child realistic lessons about income and finances. She can grow to earn a college degree and still file for bankruptcy, or she can drop out of high school and never be late paying a bill. The key difference is finding a way to balance the money coming in with the money going out. No matter what path your child decides to take, make sure that she can afford it.
Give Them Wings
Yes – it is great to see a child successful in a career, but it doesn’t guarantee that the child will be successful in life. Don’t forget to make sure there is room on your child’s path for his passions and his dreams, and leave some wiggle room for those to change over time.