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When I grow up: Why talking with tweens about career paths is a good idea

Nikki Stevenson

Nikki Stevenson

Nikki is a parenting writer and a mom to three wild boys who keep her on her toes (and occasionally make her question her sanity). With over 15 years of experience in the parenting industry, she has more tips and tricks than Mary Poppins on speed dial. When she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can find her sipping on coffee, hiding in the bathroom for five minutes of...
Created on Oct 30, 2023 · 5 mins read

My eldest tween is on the verge of being a full-fledged teenager and trying to broach conversations about his future education and career has gone from ‘I want to be an astronaut’ to being a bit more realistic. With this realism comes important topics like subject choices, natural aptitudes, goals and career research. It can be a lot! However, taking it one step at a time is the way to go – starting with getting your tween to start thinking about these things more seriously. While it can be challenging to balance your child’s interests with their long-term goals, there are several things you can do to help your child make informed decisions about their future.

What is career planning, and why is it important?

Career planning is the process of identifying your tween’s long-term career goals and taking steps to achieve them. It involves assessing their strengths and interests, exploring different career paths, and developing the skills and education needed to succeed in their chosen field. This is a vital step, and while some may say tweens are too young to think about these things,   it will help them make informed decisions about their future, focus their efforts, and achieve their goals. By taking the time to plan their career, your tween will be more likely to find a fulfilling and successful career path that aligns with their interests and abilities.

Start with open communication

The first step in helping your tween plan for their future is to start with open communication. Encourage your child to share their thoughts and interests with you. Listen actively to their ideas, ask questions, and offer guidance and support. Creating a supportive and open environment will help your child feel more comfortable discussing their future plans with you.

Encourage career exploration

Encouraging your tween to explore different career paths is another important step in helping them plan for their future. You can do this by exposing them to different industries and professions through books, movies, TV shows, and other media (as long as the media in question shows a realistic representation of what that career may actually be like).

Get them excited about researching different careers online and attend career fairs or job shadowing opportunities. You can also encourage your child to talk to people who work in fields that interest them. By helping your child explore different careers, you’ll help them make informed decisions about their future.

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Identify strengths and interests

Another important step in helping your tween plan for their future is to identify their strengths and interests. By helping your child identify their natural talents, passions, and skills, you’ll help them find careers that align with their abilities and interests.

You can do this by having your child take career assessments, personality tests or observing their interests and hobbies. Understanding their strengths and interests will help your child choose a career they’ll enjoy and excel in.

Set long-term goals

Setting long-term career goals is an important part of career planning with your tween. Get your child to set goals for their future career, such as the type of job they want to have or the industry they want to work in. Setting these goals early on will help your child focus their efforts and make more informed decisions about their education and career path. It’s important to remember that your child’s goals may change over time as they gain more experience and exposure to different career paths.

Let’s take a page out of a career counsellors book with these questions they typically ask tweens and teens to get an idea of where their future-career heads are at:

  1. What are your hobbies and interests?
  2. What are your favourite subjects in school, and why do you enjoy them?
  3. What skills and strengths do you possess? What are you good at?
  4. What are your long-term career goals? What kind of job do you want to have?
  5. What kind of work environment do you prefer? Do you like working alone or with others?
  6. What values are important to you in a career? What motivates you? Think about what motivates you to perform in class.
  7. What kind of salary or benefits are you looking for in a job?
  8. What kind of education or training do you think you need to achieve your career goals?
  9. What kind of jobs or industries interests you? Why do they appeal to you?

Of course, you can change the language and question complexity to be age-appropriate for your child. Once you have the answers, you should start seeing some trends emerging that will push you both in the right direction for further career research.

Explore education and training options

Once your child has a better understanding of their interests and strengths, explore the education and training options available to them. This could include vocational training, apprenticeships, trade schools, community colleges, and four-year universities. Get your child to research different programmes and institutions with you to find the one that best fits their career goals and interests.

Start by looking at what points are needed to get into these institutions and fields of study and what subject choices will be necessary for your child. If they want to go into a particular field and then realise that they will need to get a great result in a subject they currently battle with – this may be the motivation they need to try a bit harder.

Provide guidance and support

You are your tween’s loudest cheerleader, even when your choice may differ from theirs. Providing guidance and support throughout your child’s career planning is essential. Offer advice and resources, but also allow your child to make decisions and take ownership of their career development. Remember, this is their future, and supporting them in their journey is important.

While you definitely have your child’s best interests at heart, it’s generally not a good idea for you to choose a career for your tween. This is because every child is unique, with their own talents, interests, and passions. By allowing your child to explore their interests and make their own career decisions, you’ll empower them to take ownership of their future and find a career that aligns with their abilities and goals.


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