Preparing your child for their career means teaching them the things that no one taught you. Use your experience to teach your child about how the job market works and to choose a career based on their strengths and desires. While you may not be able to directly prepare your child for the career they end up pursuing, you’ll at least have given them the tools to seek out the career they want and to make these tough job decisions for themselves. The key is to get them thinking about their future early and often, and then helping them with their educational choices. Here are some steps that can help prepare your child for their career.
Explain What a Career Is To Your Child
Start by explaining to your child what a career is and why they will want to have one someday. Get them interested in how jobs work and make them start thinking about what people do when they grow up. Don’t limit your conversation to fire fighters and astronauts, include all of the careers that may appeal to them in the future. Children may not seem excited to talk about careers, but they definitely take this information in and process it. Letting them know that someday they will have the career of their choice can make it easier for them to understand why they go to school.
Start Talking About Different Careers Early and Often
The best way to get your child to think about their future is to discuss them early and often. For example, if your son is obsessed with jet airplanes, then explain to them the types of careers they could have that would contribute to jet airplanes. In this case, you could tell them about the different jobs associated with jet airplanes. Tell them about the engineers that design the planes, the pilots that fly the planes, the mechanics that fix the planes, and all of the companies that help make parts for the planes. Tell them about the companies like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Southwest Airlines, and the Air Force. Let them start to see for themselves the different careers associated with the things they like.
Ask Your Child What They Want to Do When They Grow Up
Another simple way to help prepare your child for a career is to occasionaly ask them what they want to do when they grow up. Most young kids will have a pretty quick response, and it will likely change often. When they tell you what they want to be, make sure you describe to them in more detail the pros and cons of that career. For example, if your child wants to be an airline pilot, describe to them what their life might be like. For example, tell them that they will have to live close to a large city that has an airport, and that they will travel a lot. Also let them know that they will be away from their family for long periods of time and that they will experience long delays and have to sleep in lots of hotels by themselves. In other words, try to give your child a more detailed picture of what their life will be like if they were to choose that career.
Encourage Your Child to Learn About Careers
As your child gets older, encourage them to learn about different jobs. Sit down with them and help make a list of the different career paths that they might be interested in. Be as diverse as possible. Then go to the library and check out books about each one. The library literally has thousands of books about different careers. The books are written for a range of readers as young as kindergarteners all the way to adults. As your child gets older, encourage them to come to work with you for a few hours and explain to them what you do on a daily basis. Encourage them to ask questions about things they are interested in. For example, if your child wants to be a video game developer, find a local software company and send them an email asking a few questions about what it’s like to work for a video game company and what recommendations they would have to help prepare you for this type of career.
Help Your Child Choose the Right Classes
Find out what your child is good at and help them become better. For example, if your child is gifted at math but not very strong in writing, encourage them to look into careers in engineering, chemistry, computer science or some other science. If they are interested in a particular field, make sure they sign up for the right classes in grade school and high school. And make sure they find other activities that can help build these schools. For example, if your child wants to be a writer, then get them to sign up for all the literature classes they can. Try to get them into any advanced placement (AP) classes. Also, have them join any organized book clubs, debate team or other clubs or organizations that can help improve these skills. Don’t just look at your school, but look for national writing clubs and find local and national writing events to compete in. Even if they dont’ win, it will greatly improve the skills they will need to get ahead.
Give Your Child Any Advantage You Can
Do what you can to give your child some way of standing out when it comes to getting into college or applying for their first job. For example, get them into the best schools. Also, encourage them to learn another language, start their own summer business, play team sports, and find interesting or unique hobbies. All of these extracurricular activities can help your child stand out from other applicants for both their college applications and job interviews.
Prepare Your Child for College
Many students start college with no idea as to what they want to do. This is okay, but at least make sure your child knows their options and which fields they might do best in. Help your child get ready for college by getting them to enroll in several extracurricular activities and team sports. Also, get them to take as many advanced classes as possible, and have them prepare for their standardized test by getting them some home study courses. More importantly, find some way for them to stand out from other applicants.
Help Your Child Choose the Right College
Choosing the right college is a difficult task, and one that your child will need help with. Find out what your child wants to get out of college. Are they very social? Are they the top of their class? Are they science or art oriented? Do they want to be close to home? Do your research and find a large list of potential colleges. Go over the list with your child and tell them the pros and cons of each school. Make sure you discuss the costs of each school so you they can understand the tradeoffs between quality and cost, and help choose the school that offers the most value. If your child knows what career path they want to pursue, find the top 10 schools for that profession and help them choose which to apply to.
Teach Your Child How to Network and Be Creative
The most important thing you can teach your child to get them ready for the real world is to be creative and to network. Being creative means learning to think on your own. Being able to survive a long term career means you’ll have to be able to adapt and thrive in changing environments. Teach your child not to think of a career as just another job, but as a way to express themselves and find solutions that others haven’t thought of. Also, most good jobs are found from people you know, not based on just your resume. Teach your child the importance of getting along with others and keeping in touch, even if just occasionally.