7 Effective Strategies for Discussing Career Choices With Your Children
Navigating conversations about career choices with children can be a daunting task. To help you, we've gathered seven insightful strategies from professionals, including Career Coaches and founders. From normalizing career pivots for children to teaching the balance between commitment and adaptability, discover the wisdom these experts have to share.
- Normalize Career Pivots for Children
- Practice Age-Appropriate Honesty in Career Talks
- Prioritize Subtle Networking Skills
- Support Career Changes
- Instill the Value of Learning
- Prompt Exploration and Self-Reflection
- Teach the Balance Between Commitment and Adaptability
Normalize Career Pivots for Children
It's important for children to have a plan. However, too many parents and schools ask adolescents to commit to a future path that will probably change. It stresses kids out more than we realize. While adults simply want the best for the children close to them, those same kids feel tremendous pressure and anxiety about getting it right.
Instead, we should let children know that planning is critical, but normalize pivoting and changing directions. This allows kids to strive for their best in a specific direction without feeling terrible about themselves when (and it will happen) they change their minds.
Kelli Anderson, Career Coach, Resume Seed
Practice Age-Appropriate Honesty in Career Talks
Be honest, but at a developmentally appropriate level. Children pick up on and understand more than we might realize. If you are taking a new job that will require more hours, it's okay to share that and some version of why.
Perhaps it's to make more money to support the family, or perhaps you want to grow your career. You can share those things and your love for your child. Perhaps you were laid off. You can share that you will need to find a new job, and might be home for a bit.
Age-appropriate honesty is what will allow your child to understand and not personalize it, and it always feels better to connect authentically.
Prioritize Subtle Networking Skills
I have four sons, and my perspective as an executive recruiter informs the way I approach our conversations about their future careers. I speak with top-tier executives every day, and one unique strategy I've picked up is to emphasize the importance of teaching them to connect with others early in their lives.
I never call it "networking," but I encourage my children to build meaningful relationships with peers, mentors, teachers, and professionals in fields they find interesting. I challenge them to be curious and ask great questions. By semi-secretly teaching them the tenets of networking from a young age, I help them learn to be fearless conversationalists and skillful connectors of ideas and people.
They have an understanding that success often depends on the relationships they cultivate throughout their lives. It's a long-term investment in their future that goes beyond the traditional career advice and can significantly impact their professional and personal path.
Support Career Changes
While I always encourage my children to pursue the types of jobs they want, I also remind them it's okay to change their minds. For example, my son wanted to be an engineer for many years. We supported him with extracurricular activities and work experience.
While he enjoyed it, he soon realized it wouldn't be a financially rewarding career. With the confidence in knowing he could change his mind and we wouldn't be upset, he looked at professions related to engineering. He now solves complex mathematical problems as a trainee actuary.
Instill the Value of Learning
"Learn how to learn" is the phrase that gets my kids' eyes rolling because I say it so often. As a parent of two tweens, I am focused on making the connection between effort—in school, in sports, in cleaning their bedroom—and future success.
On a subconscious level, I know my kids are learning about their parents' habits—how we advance in our career, how we deal with money—and making a connection to effort. Consciously, we emphasize that scoring 80%, 90%, 100% on the test doesn't matter as much as: Did they learn more about how they learn? Can they express what they enjoyed or didn’t enjoy about what they learned?
By learning to pay attention to their internal thoughts, struggles, and how they make sense of the world, figuring out a career path can be a lot easier.
Prompt Exploration and Self-Reflection
When discussing career paths with your children, it's beneficial to prompt exploration and self-reflection. Offer them varied experiences, letting them dive into multiple hobbies and interests.
Suggest they participate in new endeavors, engage in community service, or take up internships to get a feel for diverse careers. Create an open space to share their dreams, skills, and core beliefs. Pose stimulating questions like, "What activities make you lose track of time?" or, "What impact do you want to make in the world?"
Remind them that careers can shift and change as they grow and learn. Stress the value of pursuing what truly ignites their spirit and brings them joy. Act as their compass, helping them navigate choices rooted in self-knowledge and aligned with their personal goals.
Teach the Balance Between Commitment and Adaptability
One crucial discussion I have with my kids centers on balancing commitment with adaptability in their careers. It's vital they grasp the value of perseverance, yet recognize when a change is necessary. In today's world, where frequent career shifts are common, those adept at discerning when to persist and when to pivot will navigate their lifelong careers effectively.