I am a working parent of a 16-year-old high school student who is in Grade 11 and is struggling to figure out a meaningful career path. He has pressure to start choosing his courses for next year, which is his last year of high school. He wants to go to university as well. I know that a suitable and sustainable career and future employment opportunities are critical for his personal growth, confidence and self-esteem. He has turned to me for career direction and to help him decide what he wants to be when he grows up.
I have no clue how to help him. Do you have any career advice for him?
Signed: My Kid’s Future (MKF)
According to our Career Counsellor and facilitator of JVS Toronto’s Career Exploration Opportunities Workshop, Dorota Hejnrych, often high school and university students turn to their parents for career advice. In her work with high school youth, Hejnrych often helps the students with making a suitable career choice and direction.
For many parents this is an overwhelming task, because they do not know the current labour market as well as future predictions and what is required for their child to make informed decisions. Choosing a suitable career path involves understanding one’s strengths, interests (job related and hobbies), motivating factors, labour market trends, lots of encouragement and a simple action plan, advises Hejnrych. As a frontline practitioner with over 10 years of experience, she offers parents the following strategies to help with their children’s career development, especially if these types of workshops are not offered in the school:
Help your son learn about as many careers as possible. Bring him to your workplace for a day. Encourage him to talk to as many people as possible in your network, as well as in their network such as the teachers and school staff; don’t forget his friends’ parents and their network.
Help him find out what different people in your family or different professionals in your life do for a living. For example, have him arrange an information interview with your family doctor, dentist, banker, and your lawyer, as well as local politicians, police officers, to name a few. He could experience the real working world through a volunteer experience, especially if he needs community hours to graduate from school. Part-time work is also important, regardless of where he works.
Again, experience gained through part-time work while in school, extra-curricular activities, clubs, school teams or volunteering, are important opportunities for youth, to start to understand and learn about who they are and discover their talents, suggests Career Consultant, Robert Shewchuk.
Furthermore, this upcoming young worker can start to figure out his strengths, skills and values as well as passions that can translate into a career path, with your guidance.
Course and program selection.
High school is a great place for your child to explore, learn and investigate different career paths. By encouraging him to take different courses during or after school, you can keep his options open, as much as possible. Encourage him to engage in broadening experiences by engaging in new hobbies and learning new soft skills (for example, problem-solving) and technical skills in addition to gaining as much knowledge and information as possible.
Hejnrych warns against selecting less applicable university degrees and majors that will not translate into a job or career. One of the main reasons for obtaining a post-secondary education is to secure a meaningful career in the end, stresses the career counsellor. In today’s reality, it is not simply enough to study what one finds interesting. Hejnrych recommends to students to choose a diploma/degree in the area that best fits their interests, strengths that can be eventually be turned into a paycheck!
Be supportive, not directive, suggests Shewchuk. Hejnrych recommends assisting young adults in facilitating information interviews but refraining from doing them for them. Letting your son do as much as possible on his own will facilitate another important transferable and soft skill in the working world! Once kids learn the art of researching and asking key questions, they will be far more equipped in their careers and job search.
It’s not always about finding that perfect career path or a job, concludes Hejnrych. It’s about looking for the optimal fit for the current labour market. For some, it might be a full-time job, Monday to Friday; for others, it might be two part-time positions in order to make a full-time living.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a crystal ball to predict future labour market trends. Look for career paths that are suitable now and support your son to become a lifelong learner. What works now, will not necessarily work later! Prepare him for a career plan and job skills that are transferable, adaptable, flexible and able to work in the labour market that he will be facing one day, when he is an adult job seeker.