Parents as a Career Educator
Parents are often the first and preferred choice for information, advice and guidance for young people when making career decisions. Parents, working alongside school Career Advisors, have a positive impact on student learning and transition outcomes.
Often parents hear the word ‘career’ and think back to when they were younger it was the norm to choose a career path for life. Those days are gone.
- Many parents report they feel overwhelmed about how to help their teenager in making informed career decisions. They often believe they might give them incorrect advice, resulting in the teenager making the wrong decision. In today’s fast-changing world there is no such thing as a wrong choice because a career decision is not a single event. Career paths are no longer linear with a fixed destination, rather career paths are now a journey, with multiple roads and numerous destinations, guided by available support, and ever-growing opportunities. There will be bumps in the road along the way however, the key is to support your teen in overcoming these bumps. We have a forgiving education system that enables students to recover from false starts so be sure that teens understand the power of resilience and the ability to bounce back is a skill that will serve them well in the 21st century working world.
10 Ways Parents Can Assist
Notice and name your Child’s Skills
Is your teenager really good with people? Mention that they have strong social skills. People skills and interpersonal skills are something that employers are constantly crying out for. Are they avid readers? Mention how people who read a lot have strong critical thinking skills. Try and get in the habit of noticing and naming what they have natural skills and abilities in. That is who they are and that is what they need to know about themselves. “The new question is not what do you want to be but rather how do you want to be? (Savicks, 2019)
Grow your own Network of Contacts
Grow your own network of contacts and then introduce your teens to interesting people. This will be useful both now as they are deciding what to do after secondary school and later as they are looking for work in their chosen field.
Listen quietly, patiently and uncritically. Just listen and restrain yourself from offering opinions/advice/solutions. As you listen, encourage them to tell you: What do they think are their strengths? What things do they find challenging? Who would they most like to be like?
Find Neutral Sources of Information
The ability to find and locate information is another important career development skill. Remember that you as a parent/caregiver are not neutral. If they want to pursue a career that you suspect will be low paid or if you think their chances of finding work in that field will be difficult, instead of telling them they are wrong show them neutral sources of information on income levels and labour market statistics. Three websites with great labour market information relevant to New Zealand are:
Be open to all Possible Opportunities’
If you keep an open mind to what’s possible, they will begin to believe in different possibilities for their future. Remember your children are not static and they may have many careers throughout their working life
Critically Examine your Definition of Success
Research shows that once you can provide financially for yourself and your family, additional salary and benefits don’t reliably contribute to worker satisfaction. Much more important are things like whether a job allows you to be in control of your own time, whether you work alongside others whom you respect and whether you feel your job is meaningful.
Encourage them to talk to people, to try out new things. Lead by example.
Encourage them to do some voluntary work – there are great websites called: https://www.volunteerkapiti.org.nz/ https://www.letscollaborate.co.nz/our-kaupapa & https://www.volunteeringnz.org.nz/. That list both long and short term volunteering opportunities.
Encourage them to get a part-time job. Working part-time will grow their employability and working in customer service will show potential employers that they have work-ready skills that employers value.
Work Ready Kapiti offers work experience opportunities https://www.workreadykapiti.com/programmes
Action is the antidote to not knowing what to do with your life. Very few people have this searing moment of clarity where they just instantly know what they are supposed to do with their lives; instead people discover what they like and what they are interested in but trying a lot of different things (Symington, 2014). So keep encouraging the young people to try new things.
Value Emotional Intelligence
Remember that you cannot choose well if you only base your decisions on rational thought. Like it or not, we are emotional. Human beings invariably include emotions in their decision making processes. By all means, get the facts, know the numbers, know the labour market, know the salary expectations, but don’t discount how you feel about it.
As a society, we seem to be nervous about uncertainty. A lot of us like to know what the plan is, and like to feel secure that we know what’s coming our way, and that is not always helpful when it comes to career development. A really important career skill is to learn about how to capitalise on chance events and how to realise that the chance of something good happening is just as likely, if not more likely, than something not so good. Have conversations with your teenagers about things in your life that were lucky, things in your life that seemed to be chance events that led you to a great opportunity, times in your life when you were presented with an unexpected opportunity and ran with it – help them see that all plans need to be flexible. An inflexible plan can easily lead to disappointment whereas a flexible plan leaves room for unexpected positives.
Tips for Parents:
- Model what you know and want. Your teen is watching and listening. Take the time to connect, put your phone away, and make sure the time you have with your teen is uninterrupted. Ask for your teen’s input, what help do they want from you, when would be a good time to talk? Ask for feedback, if you give them some information or advice, ask if that is helpful and of benefit to them?
- Connect with the school. This includes classroom teachers, their Dean and the Career Advisors. Show your teen that you support their goals and understand what they need to do academically to achieve these.
- Be informed. Take some time to become familiar with the school website, events calendar and the career management programme – Career Central that PC is using. Organise visits to training providers, open days and information evenings.
Prompts to use for discussion
Tools for Parents
- Career Central
How & Why to use Career Central:
Sign into Career Central from home: https://app.careercentral.school.nz/sso?moe=248
Sign in as a parent using your parent portal username and password
- School Leavers Toolkit
- Tertiary Parents & Whanau guidebooks – (Polytechnics don’t tend to have specific parent and whanau books)
University of Auckland
Auckland University of Technology
University of Canterbury https://www.canterbury.ac.nz/media/documents/2020-Parent-Whanau-Guide-LIAI8027.pdf
University of Otago
Victoria University of Wellington
University of Waikato