Parents are the single biggest influence on young people’s career plans and can play a significant role in helping family members to make informed decisions about their future. Here are some things you can do as a parent to help your children succeed in this area.
• Kids are starting to become self-aware around the age of 11 or 12, and conversations about the things they enjoy and are good at, and how they interact with others, are a good starting point.
• As they move through secondary school, encourage them to find ways to explore their interests and abilities, and different careers. Don’t assume that your child will automatically become exposed to a wide range of careers at school.
• Help them realise how many different jobs there are. One way to do this when they are young is to play job games. For example, looking out the window of the car – how many different jobs can you see?
Conversation starters – good times to engage with your kids about careers
Equip your child with life skills and work skills
• Give them roles and responsibilities at home.
• Encourage them to take opportunities that arise.
• Help your children to attend school every day.
• Use your personal contacts, such as family and friends, to help them into work.
• Does your child know what you do at work? The kind of skills you use? This is useful information for them.
Build dreams with your child
• Kids want to be something. Let them dream. Give positive feedback on the things they are good at.
• Provide a wide variety of experiences for your children.
• When you’re watching TV or movies, ask “What do you think they did before they were famous?” or, “I’ve never heard of that job before, have you?”
Be a good role model
• Talk about what other family members do for a living.
• Do you have a CV? Show your child.
• Tell your children your work story – how you found your first job, how school was for you.
• Take your child to work for the day or in the holidays.
• Talk about your own dreams and plans for your future.
Help your child to explore career options
A lot of young people aren’t encouraged to explore the “road less travelled” and so end up choosing a career that is available and familiar. Remember there are thousands of occupations out there.
Booking time with the careers office at school is also a good idea, as they have a variety of career exploration resources available.
Identify your child’s broad areas of interest and take it from there. You don’t have to hit the bull’s-eye the first time in terms of a career.
Encourage your child to take part in extra-curricular activities as a good way to help them further develop areas of strength, such as leadership, teamwork, problem solving, responsibility, communication and social skills.
Make sure your child has an up-to-date CV
Writing a CV can be quite a task for anyone, let alone a young person. However, writing a CV will enable your child to think more deeply about their skills and strengths and help them identify areas of potential.
It is often useful to write a CV together – it can be easier to have another person help you to identify your personal attributes.
CV templates – use our free Word templates
How to put transferable skills in your CV
Help your child to experience jobs they’re interested in
Once your child has identified some areas of interest, help them find practical ways to learn more by spending time in the work environment through work experience.
While finding out if it is the right career for them, it enables them to make valuable contacts in the industry, which may lead to part-time paid employment while they study, and/or eventual permanent job opportunities.
Secondary schools in NZ offer programmes of work experience, such as Gateway.
You can also help your child access work experience opportunities by using your contacts and friends or family/whānau.
A step by step guide to the Gateway programme
A step by step guide to STAR
Be encouraging and supportive
Encourage your child to explore different career options.
As a parent, you will realise that there is a readiness factor and that every young person is different. Encourage your children to explore training and careers that they are interested in and to make a decision when they are ready to do so.
If they are struggling with the decision itself, ask your child: “How have you made a decision prior to this? In small things? For example, choosing a movie, a weekend with friends or which sport to play? Now follow the same process, only with a bigger thing!”
Some children develop an early idea of their career path and stick to it, and others take some time to work out what’s right for them. Try not to give your child a hard time for being indecisive about their career direction. Allow career exploration.
You may hear a student say something like “I want to study philosophy but my parents want me to do something more practical, like business.” A student who is forced into studying in an area that they are not passionate about is much less likely to be motivated, and could struggle to get through their qualification and find a career that they are truly engaged with.
Remember, making a decision about what to do after school is just your child’s first step. Think about your own career. How many times have you changed jobs? Your child’s career may change several times during their life.
Decision making is a process. Sometimes they won’t know until they try something. Think about how many times you have learnt by experience.