Helping Your Teen Explore Possible Careers

Read how to encourage your teen to explore different career options.

Many teens think that by the time they leave high school, they ought to know what they're going to do “when they grow up.” Of course, this isn't true. Reassure your teen that she'll be able to explore one, two, or even three careers during her lifetime.

That said, it doesn't hurt for teens to discover areas of possible interest. The teen who's interested in marine biology but can't stand the sight of blood, for example, ought to know that marine biologists frequently have to deal with blood. This may strengthen her resolve to overcome her fear, or convince her to switch to another interest.

Here are some other ways you can encourage your teen to explore the world of work:

Tuning In

Experts point out that job hunting requires initiative and persistence, and it's important to build networks. Volunteer work or a first job may connect teens to a network of people who can help them move on.

  • If your teen has a particular interest (taking care of animals, working in the fashion industry), encourage her to go to some of the local establishments where she can learn more about her career interest. She may even want to investigate whether there's an opportunity to “shadow” someone in the job (follow the person around for a work day).
  • Is career exploration more important at this stage than income? If so, your teen could take on a volunteer responsibility that interests him.
  • Serve as your teen's cheerleader. You may begin to notice that he's very good at articulating complex thoughts or that he has a “head for figures.” When he does something well, point it out. It may help him focus on a career direction.
  • The job market should affect your teen's thinking, but not control it. Suggest that your teen look up possible careers in the Occupational Outlook Handbook (available in the library), which is published by the U.S. Department of Labor. The book describes a wide variety of occupations and covers everything from needed qualifications to working conditions to the outlook for the future.
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