5 Tips for Handling Career Discussions with Your Teen

by Curtis Rurka on 26 Jul, 2021

It's no surprise that teens talk to their families about career exploration more than anyone else. Recent research says 88% of teens speak to their family about their career plans; 59% trust their opinions the most when discussing it. In addition, parents have a crucial role to play in their children's education in general. Since career preparedness is one of the main objectives of high school, how can you, a parent or guardian, help your teen succeed at choosing a career? We came up with five great ways to help support your children's exploration of their career options.



1. Support them by asking questions


To use a sports analogy, the coach helps the team succeed by helping them develop their skills, not by going onto the field themselves in the middle of the game and playing. As a parent, you're in a similar position; your child looks to you for guidance but it's their future to get ready for. Giving them the time to reflect and learn at their own pace helps improve their motivation, build self-esteem and develop vocational identity


A great way to support your child is by asking questions to get them into the mindset and to see where they're at. You can borrow one of the following if you're unsure what to ask:

  • You seem to be really interested in biology (or any subject your child is particularly excited about). What excites you most about it?
  • What's a school project you were really proud of? What was your favourite part?
  • What is a cool interest that you want to pursue further?
  • Is there an interesting career that you've heard about that you want to look into?
  • Where should I go to find out more about that? Is there a website that you’ve found?


That'll help them narrow down their choices so that their interests shine through as they look through their options. You might find that showing interest and enthusiasm fosters further exploration. 



2. Encourage them to explore their passions


It's normal to let your child know about popular options or ones that you're familiar with, but there are so many options out there that you might not know about. That's not even mentioning jobs that don't exist yet; 65% of children now entering primary school will ultimately work in a job that currently doesn't exist. Imagine that your child is a traveller on a long journey through all the job possibilities that the world has to offer. Let them navigate through a variety of different categories of occupations; we don't call it career exploration for nothing! ChatterHigh is an example of a website that can help them find out about a variety of different careers.


"Essential precursors for informed career decision-making include both self-awareness and opportunity awareness...This is vital for anyone but particularly critical for young people who may have had limited access to social capital and limited exposure to the range of possibilities that exist in post-secondary and labour market systems.” 

- Sareena Hopkins, Executive Director, Canadian Career Development Foundation (CCDF)


Kids are going to want to look into careers in areas that they're passionate about. Inquiry-based learning says that children learn best when they get the opportunity to engage with what they're learning in a hands-on way, and let them gravitate towards what they enjoy is a great way to do this. Let your teen explore a variety of creative arts, sports and clubs so they can find out what they love doing. Extracurricular activities and field trips at school are great for this, as well as community programs and summer camps. It'll expose your child to a huge variety of different options; maybe that music recital or that outdoor hiking excursion might be the spark that gets your child on their next career path.


3. Get excited about their interests and guide them towards their career goals


Once you start to pick up on what your teen is passionate about from the first two tips, demonstrating what you know will help you to help them! That might mean that you do some research of your own to understand what your child is interested in. Look into careers that they've indicated an interest in and figure out what they might need to do to get there.


Asking questions like these ones shows your appreciation for their work so far, helps you better understand where they're at, and nudges them in the right direction:

  • Where would you go to school to learn how to become (insert their occupation of interest here)?
  • What kinds of classes/projects at school are helping you get better at (insert skill they want to get better at or learn)?
  • Do you know what you need to do to learn more about (their subject of interest)?


These questions are great for two reasons: they are encouraging for them because it shows that you're supporting their choices so far and they are super helpful for you so you can see what you might need to research on your own to help them further.



4. Help them develop their skills


Career development specialists know there are a variety of key skills that everyone needs to master to succeed, no matter what occupation they want to have. For example, the Government of Canada has identified nine essential skills important for success. In the US, Youth.gov highlights six main areas of so-called "soft skills" that everyone needs to master. Have your child think about their ability to do things like work in a team, communicate effectively, or use a computer. That'll give them an idea of what they can work on, in school or outside of it, to prepare for their future career goals.

At the same time, you can be helping them with other personal and career planning topics like financial literacy or job preparedness tasks like writing a resume. For example, you also might know people who work in a career they're interested in that you can offer as a resource, or you might also have some wisdom to share that gives them a hand in trying to get the most out of their schooling and hobbies.



5. Research post-secondary and training options with them


Most careers these days need post-secondary education or job training. Help your teen find out where they can pursue their interests. Support them as they research other important considerations such as location, costs and whether there are clubs or associations that allow them to develop their interests and skills. That way, they'll have a better sense of what they need to do to get where they need to go. 

Looking into labour market information is also a great activity once your child has a firm grasp on things that are of interest to them. That way, they can see what the future holds for them in certain career areas so they can make more informed decisions. Most provinces and states even have their own specific resources so that you can see the breakdown for your region. 

If you're looking for a tool to help you and your teen explore career options, ChatterHigh offers students a broad range of career options and post-secondary programs to explore, including the skilled trades, careers in STEM, and programs at local colleges and universities. We help students find out what programs they are the most interested in and where they can be found in their province/state and nationwide. We also use points, competitions and fun draws to help get students engaged in their future. Students can create an account for free by signing up here.

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