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Sarah Nelson

Four Parenting Tips for Guiding Youth in Career Planning - Sarah Nelson

As a parent, you may not realize what an impact you can have on your child, either positively or negatively, when it comes to making decisions about career plans. Help your child to be successful in navigating the world of work with these following tips:

Be Open-Minded – Your child may have career ideas that don’t match your vision.  To help them reach their true potential, try to be open to everything they are exploring.  It might be tempting to squelch an idea that you think is farfetched. Instead, try to remind them of their strengths and interests, and how that career does or does not align to them. Try also to open their minds to careers they’ve never imagined, and find resources that reflect the current local labour market.

Be Encouraging – Making big decisions, like choosing a career, can be very frustrating for youth who are new to the process.  Be your child’s cheerleader as they experience success along the way, such as finding good career information, working through complicated data, coming to appropriate conclusions for themselves, and taking initiative or making steps in a positive direction.  They need your support, and being their champion without doing the work for them is critical for their long term success.

Be S.M.A.R.T. – Use the S.M.A.R.T. acronym as your guide:

  • Help your child be specific about what he or she wants, yet general enough to be flexible within a career area.  If their career exploration is generic, help them specify as appropriate (for example, ask: “If you want a science career, do you see yourself working more in healthcare with people or doing research in a lab?”).
  • Help them measure their success to date.  If they are performing poorly in math, for example, but it’s a required skill for their  career of choice, help them obtain tutoring support.
  • In order to attain their goal, ensure they don’t drop course requirements that may prolong or prevent reaching success, even if they don’t think they need that course now.
  • Help them with realistic career options by being informed along side of them. Ensure that they are pursuing a goal that is appropriate for today, that makes sense financially, pragmatically, and that fits them as the person you know (personality, values, skills, etc.). 
  • If, as parents, you are prepared to support your child in some financial way for a specific time period, be sure to communicate it.  Help them identify a plan that matches your timeline, and if they want to extend their goal, help them figure out how to reach it on their own.

Be Their Expert – or find one – You probably know your child better than most when it comes to their personality, values, interests, skills, and preferences.  You can be a great sounding board for them, but it’s also easy to respond with your own personal bias.  Being aware of your bias, keeping it in check, and recognizing that you might not be the expert when it comes to careers, will help you be their best guide.  Work with your child’s school guidance counsellor and consider getting career assessments done with a professional career development practitioner.  Encourage your child to connect with your network to conduct informational meetings with people in potential suitable careers, and help them get a variety of workplace experiences through volunteerism, part time and summer work opportunities as soon as they can.

Parents generally say that they want their children to grow up having happy and productive lives.  According to Confucius, if you "choose a job you love, you will never have to work a day in your life."  By keeping these tips in mind, you can help your child find the career they love and find success in the world of work.


About Sarah Nelson | Her educational background includes education, linguistics and career development. Professionally a Career Development Practitioner with a CHRP, Sarah has a vast array of work experience including being a School Trustee, a Learning Consultant, and a college instructor. 

Contact Sarah | LinkedIn, or Twitter.


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