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Education|07 November 2022

What can parents do to keep up with their kids’ career choices?

Written by Jitin Chawla
Eminent career counsellor and a founder of Centre for Career Development with more than 21 years of experience in mentoring students accross the world.
  • Are your relatives’ kids the benchmark for your kids?
  • Do you want your child to run an endless rat race (career-wise)? 
  • Do you want your child to take up the usual career options you had back then? Or  
  • Do you want your children to lead a peaceful, accomplished and fulfilling life?

Parents often wonder if they should be involved in their child’s career choice. There are pros and cons to both sides of the argument. 

On one hand, parents can offer valuable insight and guidance based on their years of experience. On the other hand, too much involvement could limit a child’s ability to make their own decisions and which leads to factors like:

  • Choosing conventional options leading to average careers
  • No enhancement of skills because of lack of interest
  • Unnecessary pressure to live up to the parents’ expectations takes a toll on the child’s mental health
  • Wastage of money and time spent in coaching for selected few competitive exams.

What are healthy ways of parental involvement to help kids navigate career choices? 

Parents have a key role to play in the decision-making and the general career path for children to pursue; but how involved should you be in choosing a career or in the decision-making process? 

Should you adopt a hands-on role? What is the best advice you can give your child at this point? 

Planned and proactive parental involvement is the best approach. The best thing you can instil is a mature and sensible mindset, giving your children the tools to make their own informed decisions. 

How you can influence your child:

  • Having a strong, mature parent-child relationship 
  • Set a good example (socially, personally, and professionally) for your child.
  • The attitudes, views, and values you adopt and express.
  • The expectations you set for your children’s education, career, and life.
  • The opportunities you provide for your children to learn and develop.

Role and important factors to be considered by parents in a student’s life that are of tremendous value in choosing a career:

Personality: Your child’s personality is the way they think, feel and behave. Reflect on their future based on the kind of personality they have:

  • Is your child a leader or a follower?
  • Do they enjoy helping others or prefer to empower them to do things themselves?
  • Are they a thinker who keeps brainstorming or are they a doer who takes action?
  • Do they have a creative and artistic persona & are someone who thrives with structure and routine?

Aptitude: The child’s ability is a mirror of their latent abilities. Aptitude tests [verbal, mechanical, numerical, reasoning, spatial test etc] can reveal a lot about the students.

Interest: Parents should analyze the interest of their child while shortlisting career options because it is very challenging to spend one’s life struggling in a field that you are not interested in. Videos can help the child visualize career options. 

Informed decision over herd mentality: Parents need to be acquainted with all the career choices because if it is influenced by peer pressure or being popular, it may end up hindering a student’s accomplishments.

Future: The greater the scope in India or abroad, the greater the chances of finding the job that suits the child most.

Steps of an effective career plan:

  • Explain to your child that understanding yourself is the first step towards career planning.
  • Listen to your child and encourage them to explore all their options by watching videos and researching available options.
  • Help them to find out what is needed to work in a certain career considering the pros and cons of various options.
  • They should try out different kinds of tasks to gain practical exposure:
  • Summer camps, boot camps, career fairs and exhibitions, vocational  training, and workshops.
  • Develop skills by taking part in clubs and activities.
  • Expose your child to sports, arts, hobby clubs and other creative pursuits
  • Parents need to consider online and digital learning for their children which helps in improving skills
  • Take them through documentaries, career videos, online courses and educational blogs of career experts and eminent personalities on YouTube and social media platforms like TED Talks, and Josh Talks.
  • Consider youtube channels like (Vox, Andrew Huberman, Smarter every day, Big Think, Bloomberg Technology, The School of Life, Bernard Marr, Talks at Google, and Crash Course).
  • Help to enroll children in special classes on a platform like Google Digital Garage, Coursera, Edx, Udemy, Youtube, Lynda, MIT open courseware, or Simplilearn to help them get more insights into different fields and courses.
  • Find out about the world of work and responsibilities through work experience and extracurricular activities by talking to relatives, family friends, and professionals.
  • Parents and their children can also seek help from career guidance professionals. Differential aptitude tests will help your child understand where his aptitudes lie, such as verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning, mechanical reasoning, and spatial relations. 
  • Parents can also help their children set smart, attainable short-term, long-term goals and develop a plan of action to implement these decisions. 

There’s nothing called a perfect parent, so just be a real one.”- Sue Atkins

We all take time to ‘find our feet’. Parents will often say things such as “pick a course you think you’ll like” or “why don’t you apply for this job”. 

Though it may seem they’re doing the right thing in terms of steering their children in the right direction, parents also need to understand that we all need space and time to discover what we truly want to pursue. The trick here is to educate children that life is about self-discovery and that new skills and talents are developed.

Parents may lay the groundwork that elevates and supports kids as they learn, seize chances, and grow. And instil fundamental qualities like resilience, self-belief, discipline, accountability, and integrity in kids so they may succeed and find solutions in whatever career they choose in today’s and tomorrow’s workplaces.

Parents need to normalize conversations about self-discovery, talent understanding, ambitions, and dreaming big. So, be a friend, philosopher, and guide and not just an authority figure.

The views expressed are that of the expert alone.

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