What Do YOU Want to Be When You Grow Up?
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Preteens and Teens: The Wonderful World of Work
Visit any library or bookstore and you'll discover a plethora of resources on various careers. Books are very helpful, but an even better way to help your child to learn about careers is through hands-on, real world activities. According to Donald Super, another well-known career theorist, a child attempts to "crystallize" potential occupations (typically in their teenage years) by trying out different jobs to expand her knowledge of careers. Volunteer work and summer jobs are excellent opportunities for your child to explore the world of work. Work experience will expose your child to a particular field, allow her to develop practical skills, and instill a sense of accomplishment and work ethic. Also, when kids are able to connect classroom lessons to the workplace, they can finally answer the common question, "Why do I have to learn this?!"
Initiatives such as "National Job Shadow Day" (February 2) and "Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day" (April 27) provide excellent opportunities for children to gain exposure to the workplace and develop career interests. Job shadowing and informational interviewing allow children to observe a professional in the workplace, receive real answers to career-related questions, and experience a typical day's work in that particular field. You can establish these opportunities by tapping your network of personal and professional contacts, as well as partnering with your child's school to arrange workplace field trips or career days.
Teenage Years and Beyond: The Daunting Decision
The classic film, The Graduate, exemplifies the confusion and angst that young people often feel when making a career decision. Our society places much emphasis on career choice which can be closely linked to our identities. As children we're asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"; as teenagers, "What are your plans after graduation?"; and even as adults, we're faced with, "So, what do you do?" When a young person is still exploring his interests, give permission to say "I'm not sure yet." The journey is truly just as important as the destination. Make it clear that you will be pleased with whatever career choice your child makes. The first priority is your child's happiness.
Lastly, encourage your child to visit her school counselor to discuss career plans. Most guidance offices offer career inventories and resources that promote further exploration and provide help with the decision-making process.
It is very important for parents to provide guidance for their children's career development. By taking a supportive role, you are not deciding your children's career path for them, but empowering them to make informed, rewarding career choices.
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