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.