The current health and economic challenges we face make us think about what the future will look like for our children.  I am a parent of two curious children, a 7-year-old boy and 10-year-old girl. While they are still developing their wide array of interests (space travel, interior design, culinary arts and certainly Minecraft), translating these interests into areas of study and potential careers can be challenging. 

I am relieved that we are still in the early stages of their development.  Still, many of my friends and family are trying to figure out, given the current pandemic, how to give their children career exploration opportunities.  

Job-shadowing has been a norm for many years. Middle- and high-schoolers went to work with parents, relatives, friends or other acquaintances to experience a typical workday. And while it may be possible to shadow some aspects of specific careers virtually, job shadow opportunities may take some creativity to find 

Here are some tips for your student to explore careers in the current climate. 

Narrow the focus:  

While trite, asking, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” can be an opening question. When I ask my 10-year-old what she wants to be, interior design has been on the top of her list for months.  Playing to their strengths is also essential.  My daughter has been a prolific artist and crafter for years, and we encourage her to transform our household spaces.   

Focusing on a passion can also help. While being realistic is important, doing what you love is also critical. My friend, Jeff, always wanted to make a difference in people’s lives who are facing difficult circumstances. Today, Jeff advocates for recent parolees at a community action program in Connecticut. Jeff is also a professional clown who brings laughter and smiles to vulnerable children at a Connecticut hospitalWhile Jeff never thought that being a clown was in his future, his passion for making the world a better place allows him multiple ways to create a better life for others. 

Research:  

Certainly, the most immediate option to explore career opportunities rests in researching interests online and through literature. While Google provides an endless array of options, finding legitimate resources is important for families beginning this exploration.  

Surprisingly, there are very few books that cover this topic for young teens. One book I recently purchased was Careers: The Graphic Guide to Planning Your Future. The book lays out over 400 careers vetted by industry professionals. It’s geared toward 8th grade and older and ranges from professions from accounting to zoologyIt’s aexcellent place to start. 

Of course, websites are a great resource. The U.S. Labor Department operates Careeronestop.org. While it’s not Minecraft or Roblox, the information is helpful and informative. Families can review hundreds of careers in video format with key information on each career. While we all huddle together as families over the coming months, this might be a fun experience on a winter evening. 

Finally, work with your school counselor for resources and candid advice on the topic. Most schools have online tools, such as career interest surveysthat allow students to input specialty areas that match them to careers based on their interests.  

Maybe shift the focus: 

Today’s tweens and teens are more worldly than previous generations. They’ve grown up with the internet, and technology is integral to their learning. Despite whatever shortcomings they may be experiencing with virtual learning, they are smart, intuitive, nimble and most of all, conscientious.  

Instead of: “what do you want to be when you grow up” how about: “what impact do you want to have“?  It’s a similar question, but knowing this generation, they understand the world is bigger than themselves, and finding a career with impact is important for many of them.   Adjusting to how they think and supporting their aspirations will be our heavy task as they continue to explore.   

 

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