Becoming Your Child’s Career Coach
April 10, 2023
The expectation still exists that our children will proceed along a linear path from high school, to post-secondary, to work and retirement. Career educators refer to this as “the career myth.”
DON’T HAVE A PLAN FOR YOUR KIDS BEFORE THEY HAVE ONE FOR THEMSELVES.
"You’ve taken a great step by attending Explore Your Future to gain information and resources available to support your child’s career exploration. Of course, career exploration is a process, not an event. Here is some wisdom to help you keep the process moving."
- Scott Verhoeve, Executive Director Business & Education Partnership of Waterloo Region
STEP 1: MANAGE THE EXPECTATIONS YOU COMMUNICATE
Most adults today would acknowledge that the working world has changed since they were teenagers. Yet, the expectation still exists that our children will proceed along a linear path from high school, to post-secondary education, to work and retirement. Career educators* refer to this as “the career myth.” The reality is that most careers journeys proceed in a less orderly fashion:
The persistence of this myth can be a barrier to career development. Your teenager might act as if they don’t care what you think, but if they feel a gap between the choices that are acceptable to them and acceptable to you, this can be a great source of pressure and anxiety. The first step, then, is to be aware of what expectations you communicate to your children about what is “OK” and “not OK.” That’s easier to say, and harder to do. One useful reminder is seek to understand before making judgments. For example, consider this interaction:
Child: I think I might want to teach overseas in Japan.
Responding with judgement: What? How could you even consider going that far away?
Seeking to understand: Interesting, I didn’t know you were thinking about working abroad. Tell me more.
STEP 2: ENCOURAGE REFLECTION AND EXPERIMENTATION WITH NEW EXPERIENCES
Seeking to understand will help keep the conversation going. If you need to get the conversation started, ask some questions to encourage reflection on your experience at Explore Your Future:
WHAT DID YOU FIND INTERESTING? WHAT DO YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT? HOW DO YOU THINK YOU COULD LEARN MORE? HOW COULD I HELP?
Notice that this reflection is setting the stage for continued experiences. The key, then, is not for your child to decide what they are going to do for the rest of their life, but simply what they are going to do next.
Your role is to encourage the cycle of experience and reflection to continue. Knowing your child’s level of knowledge, self-awareness, and confidence, you’ll be able to determine how much support they need to generate and initiate new ideas.
HOPEFULLY, EXPLORE YOUR FUTURE HAS HELPED GENERATE SOME CONCRETE IDEAS. FOR EXAMPLE:
Encourage your child talk to their guidance counselor or a favourite teacher about career exploration opportunities through their school.
Introduce your child to family, friends or work colleagues who have careers that are of interest. Leave it to your child to lead the interaction and get their questions answered.
Encourage them to find ways to "test drive" a career option they are interested in. Options include volunteerism, part-time work, or a co-op placement in grade 11 or 12.
To better understand post-secondary education and meet experts in many fields, participate in open houses, events and other programming at post-secondary institutions like Conestoga College, Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo
If your grade 12 child shows no interest in exploring post-secondary institutions and you find yourself filling out post-secondary applications for them, consider the possibility that they are not yet ready for post-secondary education. Many young adults benefit from a “gap year” in which they gather new experiences and test drive career options for a more extended time.
REMEMBER, CAREER EXPLORATION IS A PROCESS, NOT AN EVENT!
*This material is adapted “The Decade After High School: A Parent’s Guide.”
It is highly recommended and available for free download at https://ceric.ca/publications/the-decade-after-high-school-a-parents-guide/