“What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s an omnipresent question in childhood, but more often than not the answer is pretty cloudy. Here are some great tips on how to lead your little jack-of-all-trades on a path to the career of their dreams.
No matter how old your child is, you can discuss their interests and talk about professions that correspond with those interests. Even better, encourage your children to take part in activities that relate to what they want to be. Let your vet-in-training volunteer at an animal shelter, find a community garden that might want a young landscaper, or get your future Oscar-winner into a drama club.
But with careers, it’s important to keep the information and advice you give your child age-appropriate. For instance, explaining the financial drawbacks of being an actor to a preschooler may make them reluctant to discuss the topic in the future. While your child is still young, it might be a good policy to encourage any and all career ideas your child has, and support them in finding programs appropriate to nourish those interests.
When kids reach the end of middle school or the beginning of high school, there are many resources for getting more practical about a career decision. Most middle and high schools have guidance counselors available to discuss career paths with students. Parental involvement in these meetings is usually encouraged, so take advantage of this; your presence can help the conversation be more fruitful.
Internships are available to younger and younger kids these days. But sometimes trying out a profession in real life won’t live up to what your child imagined it would be. If your child becomes disappointed or discouraged, explain to them that that’s okay: just because this didn’t suit them doesn’t mean they can’t learn something from it.
Talk to your child about the path your career has taken you on, highlighting jobs you had as a teenager and what you learned from them. If possible, invite your child to join you for a day at work. Or, if another parent you know works in the industry your child is interested in, ask them if your child could spend a day shadowing them.
It’s important to remind your child that the path toward a career is long and bumpy. Your toddler chef may be singing a different tune by high school, and that’s okay. Changing your mind about your career is something that most people go through, and is ultimately an important part of growing up.