Regimented though it may seem, in today’s economic climate one thing is certain: starting early is nearly always better. As such, it’s worth all parents considering how they might help their children find their career path sooner rather than later.
This doesn’t mean being pushy; far from it. However, studies show that certain parental behaviours – and lessons that are taught early – can be vital for a child’s future career success: whether success means happiness, a sense of job satisfaction, or a full and busy life in and out of work. Here are some top tips for helping your child find their career path:
1. Resist the urge to project.
Though your child shares your DNA – and will undoubtedly benefit from many of your best qualities – they are not you. Resisting the urge to treat them as an extension of yourself may be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, but it’s arguably the most important. You may have adored your time at school; thrived under pressure as a young person; and really enjoyed certain activities when you were growing up. Your child may not share those passions. Don’t try and steer them down a particular career path – or away from another – because it’s what felt right for you during your formative years: let them make their own decisions.
2. Give your child a chance to try lots of new things.
Exposure to as many new things as possible is so important – and it can be a really fun pastime to enjoy together. Give your child the chance to try as many new activities as possible – from sports to arts and craft – and take them to concerts, museums, on nature walks, to meet new people, etc. Pay close attention to what they seem interested in. A mild interest could turn into a full-blown passion with a little support, so take note and encourage them to find out more about anything they seem enthused by. This enthusiasm may shape which subjects they want to study, hobbies they want to take up, as well as future degrees, courses or apprenticeships – potentially leading them to a career they love
3. Encourage them to be entrepreneurial.
Even if your child doesn’t display an entrepreneurial spark, encouraging them to come up with a business concept could be a helpful exercise. After all, there’s a reason that schemes like Young Enterprise continue to be popular in schools: starting a business is a great way to learn about responsibility and pick up real-world skills (such a social, leadership and team-work abilities) at the same time.
First, help your child to pinpoint an area that interests them by creating a list. It could be as simple as ‘I enjoy counting’ or ‘I love making/baking things.’ From there, you can discuss how this might be applicable to a business: perhaps your child would like to set up a little shop of handmade goods or cakes, or offer homework-checking services to younger relatives or friends. Next, think about budgeting. Are there any supplies that need to be purchased in order for them to set up ‘shop’? What sort of price do they think they would want to charge for their product or service? At this point, it can be a fun exercise for your son or daughter to ‘pitch’ their business to you as an investor: as well as presenting the financial information you’ve discussed, they’ll need to think about some goals (what do they want to achieve from their business: do they want to help people? Make money? Find like-minded people to share ideas with?)
Whether it’s just a fun activity for a rainy afternoon or something they actually want to pursue, putting your ‘business hat’ on for a while can be a really worthwhile – and enjoyable – way to begin thinking about a future career path.
4. Help find a mentor for your child.
Having a great mentor can make a huge difference to a young person’s life. Whether that’s a family friend who works in a field they’re interested in, or an expert tutor that can offer pastoral care as well as academic support, a mentor can offer an alternative perspective to a parent and help a young person learn to express him/herself in a new and positive way.
5. Be patient and encouraging – and prepare to take a backseat.
Thinking about the future and deciding on a career path can be both daunting and frustrating for a young person. Be patient with your child and remind them that the road is a long one and requires a great deal of soul-searching and experimentation. Make it clear that it’s fine to change their mind, too. Encourage them to keep thinking, learning and challenging themselves every day: it’s the journey and not the destination that really matters.
Resist the urge to take everything onto yourself and organise every single detail of their lives (though this is hard, as you’ll naturally want to protect them). Forcing yourself to take a backseat will give your child space to develop and grow, picking up valuable problem-solving and decision-making skills along the way. This doesn’t mean you can’t offer advice: encourage your child to see you as a wise – yet unobtrusive – counsellor who is ready to guide them with an open mind (and, of course, if they need a helping hand, make sure they realise that you’re there to work through the problem with them in a more hands-on way, too).