Helping your child choose a career path

iStock_000019767752SmallYesterday, Matey spent forty minutes with a careers advisor. An opportunity came up, so we took it even though he is only seven years old, nearly eight. The career advisor offered to take Matey through the process after she had gone through it with Princess. I agreed, mainly for me to see what sort of questions are good to start asking at this age.

Matey is a typical kid who looks at any job as really interesting. As we drive past a tow truck driver, he will want to be that when he grows up. We then see the postman and he then wants to do that. We build a bridge and he likes he idea of being an engineer. It changes numerous times each week. Princess, on the other hand, has only ever wanted to be the one single thing ever since she was 18 months old. Apparently Matey’s method is very normal and Princess is quite unusual.

On the way to the appointment yesterday, Matey stated that he would like to build an orphanage and also help people after a hurricane or typhoon.

At the appointment with Jo, the careers advisor, I loved the way that she asked him questions and drew out of him whether he would build a house for older people or just kids in relation to the orphanage. What was it about the orphanage – the actual building or the people, caring for the kids, teaching them, feeding them etc. Whether he would want to give medial aid or help clean up after a hurricane. She asked a lot of questions about what he likes doing, what his favourite movies and books are, eg Tintin and what he likes best ie is it the characters or the adventures and if adventures, what specific adventure etc.

I came away having learnt that I need to ask more questions of Matey and draw out the gold in what he is saying so as to understand him better. It is great that he does think about a lot of different things and at this stage we need to encourage him to explore more.

I believe that we tend to ask the wrong question. Instead of asking, “What do I want to be/do when I grow up?”, we need to be asking, “What is out there that I may be interested in?”

In fact, I firmly believe that our focus should not be on what we do but who we are, our character. If we are raising kids to impact and change their world, then who they are is just as important, if not more important,  than what they do. Thus, our focus has to be in character development. On the other hand, we need to be able to guide our kids and give them opportunities to discover more about their strengths and giftings.

Some great ideas that Jo shared with us were:

1. Start a “job” box or folder. Put into it anything that captures their attention about a future job/career. Then in five years time when they sort through it, there may well be a common thread/theme that will help affirm their interests.

2. Go on a careers adventure. Spend some time every month discovering things about different careers. Whether it is actually visiting a place of work eg post office and looking at all the different jobs that people do, or chatting about what it would be like to do a certain job.

3. Ask people (friend’s parents) what they do, their likes and dislikes about it, how they got that job ie study path, how they decided to do it, how it impacts other people and if they love doing it.

4. Play alphabet careers ie A = aborist, B = ballerina, C = chemist, D = Doctor … Any careers they don’t know eg aborist, talk more about it. The object being to discover more careers.

5. As a parent, keep track of what your child’s interested are, their strengths and weaknesses, how they have fun, their personality mix, things they don’t like etc to help them try to understand more about who they really are and their makeup.

6. Look at a product eg a water bottle. Brainstorm all the different jobs that are required to make the water bottle, fill it with water and have it end up in your hands. Enlarge your child’s view on what is required to make things happen.

7. Do mind maps eg write science in the middle of the page and brainstorm all the different things associated with science. Eg chemistry may be one. Then look at the different jobs with chemists eg researcher, doctor, lab technician, pharmacist, naturopath, etc

8. When your child visits a place like the museum or science works, encourage them to write a top ten list to narrow down the things they loved about that place. This helps them decide the type of things they like without the pressure of a particular job.

9. Explore with computer programs eg or and look at quizzes to narrow down the field.

10. Get a hard copy of a job guide and flick through, randomly opening the guide and reading the careers on that page. Look in the sections about what suits them best eg creative or artistic, helping or advising, practical or mechanical, nature or recreation, organising or clerical, persuading or service.

The object is to one day help them get to the point where they know what career they like because they have discovered who they really are. As parents, we can see their personalities develop and we can observe their strengths and giftings. We can then expose them to situations and opportunities to help develop those giftings or bring out those strengths to help our kids realise how they operate best.

An even bigger issue undergirding this is to help them develop a vision or dream for their life and help them to dream BIG!!

I encourage you as a family to have an annual or half yearly family night where you get everyone to think and pray beforehand about the following question – “If I could do anything at all to impact the world and help people, and money wasn’t an issue, what would I do?” This is a great question to ask to find out about their heart’s desires. You can then start looking at how to incorporate that into their life. It may even be more appropriate to just ask the question spontaneously like I did this week with the kids to get a real heart response. Princess stated that she wanted to open her home for a free Christmas meal for people who don’t have a home. Matey wanted to give out food to disaster victims. Guess what we are now planning on incorporating into our life?

I would love to hear from you about ways that you have used, or heard, to help your kids find their career in life. Feel free to let me know by leaving a comment.

2 thoughts on “Helping your child choose a career path

  1. Craig Petty

    I love your approach about listening in to learn the right questions to ask. It’s such an adult thing to want to lock everything down into a specific job. I’m going to work on “what is out there that I might be interested in”. I plan to discuss it with them while we drive (especially through the city), observing what people are doing, and where they are going. thanks!

    • admin Post author

      Thanks Craig. That’s a great idea. We are going to use your idea too as it is so easy and fun to do. Thanks.

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