As a parent, you are likely to be the first port of call for your child when they want to talk about careers. Naturally, you will want to give them the very best advice and support possible. However, it can be tricky to understand current options and choices. So, what can you do to help?
Will school do this for you?
Schools and colleges do their very best to help your child make good career choices. However, available resources may limit the extent of personal careers advice and guidance your child receives. Check if your child is given one-to-one, personal career guidance from a qualified career guidance professional. If so, discuss this with them and offer your support. For example, by taking your son or daughter to explore open days at colleges or universities or helping them to complete applications for courses or apprenticeships. Whether they receive effective careers support at school or not, you can still help them to take responsibility for making good career decisions.
Choosing a career
Some young people know exactly what career they are aiming for, but many do not. Don’t worry if your child doesn’t know what they want to do, this is normal! Even if they have some ideas, these may change as they get older. You can help them to start thinking about the type of work that might suit them through discussing their strengths and interests. To help them do this, explore free tools and websites such as the iCould Buzz Quiz or Start Profile which offer quizzes and questionnaires that suggest career areas of interest based on their preferences. This can be a useful exercise to spark ideas and career discussions, but by no means should they feel they need to follow the suggestions. The National Careers Service ‘Explore Careers’ is also a trustworthy website for learning more about different jobs and what qualifications and skills are needed to get into them.
Having personal experiences of different work environments can be a great way of discovering what kind of work may suit – or perhaps more importantly, rule out what doesn’t! As well as supporting your child with work experience placements organised through school, encourage your child to participate in opportunities or initiatives such as Duke of Edinburgh’s Award or the National Citizenship Service. Volunteering is also good experience and will help them to develop employability skills. Additionally, these types of activities can help your child to make effective applications for work, college or university, by incorporating them on their CV, on application forms or discussed during interviews. Find out more about volunteering in your area at Do-it.
What to study?
Broadly speaking, your child will have the opportunity to study towards academic qualifications such as A levels, or vocational qualifications such as a BTEC. Vocational study can keep the door open for university equally to A-Levels and can be undertaken through full-time education in sixth form, college or an apprenticeship. New qualifications – T-Levels which are being rolled out from September 2020 – are a mix of both and gradually becoming more available across the UK. Most importantly, your child should feel happy in what they do and have the best chance of success in their chosen route. For more information about choices after 16, visit Career Pilot.
What if it doesn’t work out?
Although you may want your child to make the right decision straight away, if it doesn’t work out – don’t stress. Learning resilience and overcoming difficulty are essential skills for your child to develop. This may mean working through their issues and staying with their chosen path, or maybe they need to explore something new and make an unplanned change. If you notice your son or daughter is not thriving or is unhappy, the sooner you address worry and concern, the better. There will always be other options available. Speak to your school or college or contact a careers adviser at the National Careers Service for advice.
A career is a journey full of twists and turns
Finally, it’s important to recognise that career choice is likely to change as your child develops. As careers advisers, we want the next generation to encounter meaningful, fulfilling and rewarding careers. We also know this is unlikely to be a straight-forward path! Every bump and obstacle your child encounters on their journey are opportunities for development. In turn, these experiences will help them to build the skills they need to positively manage future career decisions, as they move into adulthood.
For more information and resources to support your child’s career decision making, visit our Links4Careers pages.
About the author
Zoe Hendricks (RCDP MCDI, MA CEd & C) is a masters qualified career coach and an associate careers and employability practitioner at Ideas4Careers. Zoe combines over 25 years of experience in training, coaching, recruitment and commerce with her drive to help individuals create fulfilling and rewarding careers. Her careers advice and guidance work in schools enable young people to make well-informed career and educational decisions at critical points in their life.