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Career Connector

Thinking About Your Teenager's Career

I am the mother of two teenagers, aged 13 and 16. Last year, when my son was in 9th grade, I began using the techniques I’ve honed in my practice to help him become aware of his strengths and interests, and more purposeful about using them through his coursework and summer experiences. Given my frustration with the lack of a system for planning the high school-college-career trajectory, it seemed ideal to help my own child develop a program for himself.

A year later, the process seems to be working on schedule. With my help, my son has researched whether he wants to be a product designer, through specialized design courses and an internship at a design firm. He has decided that product design is probably not something he will pursue. He’s identified specific coursework that is both an interest and a strength, is reading widely in two areas of interest: polar science and marine biology, and will complete two specific internship programs this summer. He is talking with as many people as he can about their particular areas of scientific focus, to get a sense of what careers in the sciences look like.

While he/we aren’t at all sure what he will pursue ultimately, we all feel pleased that he is somewhat directed, and most importantly, he feels empowered and engaged in the process.

Here are a few assumptions I’ve made about long-term career planning beginning in the teen years:

Three assumptions are implicit in the process. The first is that teenagers who benefit from this program are college-bound.

The second is that the program begins in 10th grade, when the student is both mature enough and experienced enough in his coursework that he can begin to identify helpful patterns and take advantage of both electives and enrichment through his school.

The third assumption is that a parent or other involved adult will partner with the student to help him stay on track and advise him on how to conduct his research. Because career discovery is multi-pronged, involves significant primary research, and is by nature very individualized, each student will need support and motivation from an adult. I believe that if parents had a roadmap for generating the information that would help guide their child in a productive way, they would forge ahead with enthusiasm.

I will be sharing more details of my process going forward, so please check back regularly.

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2 Responses to Thinking About Your Teenager's Career

  1. chris says:

    Allison — can you elaborate on how you helped him identify strengths and interests? and how you helped direct his research? many thanks!

  2. Allison says:

    Hi Chris! I’m so glad you asked that question because I am launching a new part of my business to help teens go through this process. I will try and distill it for you, very briefly, here:

    1. Notice what your child chooses to do in his spare time. And when you do, ask some specific, probing questions about what it is that they enjoy about that particular activity. Try to play back what you hear to them and do not be judgmental–this is meant to be a casual exchange, not a grilling session!
    2. Think about what you have noticed about your child during different phases of his life. What kinds of things did he express an interest in at different ages? What does he read? What kinds of video games does he like? Talk to him about what you remember and what you’re noticing and see whether he agrees.
    3. Connect the interest with the field. This is the most complex part of the process and requires the most research. If his interests don’t seem to match a field with which you’re familiar, it’s a good idea to first hone in on a list of potential career tracks and have him react to descriptions of them. There are many websites I can recommend, but one place to start is O*Net, which was created for the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment & Training Administration.
    To give you some ideas of how certain school subjects/skills dovetail with specific fields, visit O*Net Online: http://online.onetcenter.org/

    You and/or your child can complete the skills profile, which helps connect specific academic and other skills with career paths: http://online.onetcenter.org/skills/

    You can find occupations based on a “Career Cluster”: occupations in the same field that require similar skills.
    4. Once you’ve identified a few jobs for your child’s further research, I suggest using LinkedIn to see what kind of background people with the job titles you’ve identified have. This helps to guide your child in terms of college and major.
    5. From there, it’s all about the research and crafting summer opportunities that dovetail with his interest. I’m in the process of creating a section on my website with resources for young adults who are interested in beginning the process of career planning now. I’ll keep you posted. But in the meantime, I’m happy to share other information if you have more questions.

    Allison

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