When I started college 25 years ago, the number of friends that majored in “Undecided” was huge. We were told that a degree in anything would work and tons of my friends graduated with a degree in “General Studies.” That was fine when 18 hours cost $565 (my real semester cost at UNT), but today a college semester can set you back to the tune of $7,500 at a state school. That’s a lot of money to be “undecided.” Furthermore, with high schools offering “Advanced Placement” and “International Baccalaureate” courses, majors need to be decided by 10th grade.
This is the sixth installment of my series Six Conversations to Have with Your Teen Starting High School. As discussed in my previous post, Teen GPA Talk: Good Grades Give You MORE Options, you need to monitor their grades so that they can have their future career. Now we need to turn our attention to helping them find and narrow down that career.
As an involved parent, you have begun seeing some skills and interests in your kids. You will also start seeing areas that they are clearly NOT good at as well. Too many parents leave what I am about to discuss up to chance or totally in the lap of their child. It is time to start asking the probing open ended questions.
Teen Career Talk
- What do you want to be when you grow up?
- Money aside, what career do you think you would enjoy the most?
- Of all the people you have met, who has the most interesting job?
- Of everything you have done today, what do you think you are the most good at?
- If I won the lotto and you never had to work a day in your life, what would you do with your time?
- What does the ideal job in life look like?
- What do you do that brings you satisfaction?
- What could you see yourself doing for 20 years?
With that start, it is now time to find tune and begin separating reality from fantasy with real life skills. A child that wants to be a writer, yet cannot pass their weekly English assignment, might need to rethink a more realistic career. Your daughter who cannot carry a tune in the shower, but wants to be the next American Idol contestant may need some redirection on your part. I am not saying that children without skills cannot have their dreams, but instead I am suggesting that parents should encourage and push toward realistic objectives that fit their teens growing skill sets and temperaments.
Next, you need to glean a list of say three to four ideas they would like to do or have a career in. Your goal as a parent is to spend the next year getting that list to one, maybe two. So how do you do that? It is time for you to get involved and have your kiddo meet people in that career. Better yet, have them interview and study all the aspects of their future career. Including what educational requirements and experience is needed to make that happen. Find someone doing what they want to do. Ask them to lunch so your aspiring young artist can meet a real artist. Let them shadow for a day at a veterinarian clinic, interviewing the vet to see if they really want that career. Ask if they can observe proceedings in a courtroom if being an attorney is up their alley. If their future requires college, walk a college campus. Have your student talk to other students, professors, and faculty.
Learning to decide what you want to do with life requires knowing what you don’t want to do as well. Expose your children to opportunities so they can figure it out. Help them build a realistic picture of finances, educational expectations, time frames and necessary skills. Now is the time to have these discussions, because undecided is clearly not an option.
What age do you feel your children should start figure out their career? What steps do you take to aid your kids in this decision?
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