Helping your children choose a career path

Making career choices are only part of the career planning process. Starting with a career plan early on in life for the best career path, is important and parents play a vital role in the choices made. As parent you can help your child make subject choices, select a tertiary institution and a major based on what your child wants from life. Being part of this process is privilege as you can help your child to become the best that he or she can be in the occupation and industry field most suitable for reaching his or her goals and dreams.

Even though the young teenage stage is still far from the career choice stage, it is a good time to start with the building of a career path plan. Self assessment and the understanding of who a person is, is vital when career plans are made.

The second stage is where the goals and dreams are matched with the personality traits as shown through the self assessment tests. These tests can be done online through a number of sites and can also be done at the career centers of schools. As parent you can help your child make a proper self assessment through the use of the available tools. Several articles and resources are available at to assist with this process and the identification of career path options.

The second phase of matching is done after researching the available occupations with their promotion possibilities, demand for people in the industry, job outlook, security, risk, benefits and the income levels. Location and demand on social life also play a role in the career selection and should be assessed.

Even though the child will only make a career choice later in life, knowing what options are available will help to make a better choice. In this regard parents can get as much information as possible to help the child look beyond traditional and stereotype jobs. People often land up in jobs they are not suited for, because they weren't informed of the many career path options available beforehand.

When you help your child to find out about available career path options, it is important that you:

  • Don't force your ideas upon the child.
  • Don't make negative comments that may hamper a child's choice.
  • Make use of your contacts to help your child meet experts in the industry fields that he or she finds exciting. If the child can get a day or two in the industry, a more informed choice can be made.
  • Make sure that you know with who your child contacts and that the person does in fact have experience in the industry as the wrong information can hamper the child's career choice.

Steps in the process that you as parent can help with:

Step 1 of helping your child in career planning

Self Assessment

  • Help your child to make a list of the things that he/she enjoys doing in their spare time.
  • Assist the child in making a list of things that he/she dislikes doing.
  • Help the child to identify subjects that he/she is good in and enjoys.
  • Speak to your child about dreams that they may have.
  • Find three to four self assessment tests on the Internet for your child to do.
  • Contact the career centre of your child's school for a further assessment.
  • Do the same for aptitude testing.
  • Let your child make a list of things that other people have said he/she does well.
  • Speak to your child about what he/she values most for instance, high income, security, friendships, family life, fame, adventure, routine, discipline, new things or familiar things, working with his or her hands, working with the mind, creating art work, designing, building, repairing, caring, animals, people, outdoors or indoors, negotiating, selling, motivating, speaking, physical activity, competition, details, following instructions, working with guidance, helping others, working alone etc. are all keywords to help establish what he or she values and wants from life and a career.

Step 2 of helping your child in career planning

Exploring options

The second step is to expose your child over a period of time to as many career options as you can without overloading the child. Based on the child's personality, traits and interests, identify broad fields of interests together with your child.

Within these fields, let the child select what interests him or her most and help the child to get information about that specific career positions. This can be done via networking, Internet, career centers, campus career advice centers, books, career fairs and people in the industry.

Help you child to identify the following for each:

  • Main job responsibilities.
  • Prospects of promotion.
  • Location of the jobs - can it only be done in certain areas or anywhere?
  • Entry level requirements.
  • Education and training required.
  • Entry level requirements for the education.
  • Duration of studies.
  • Cost of studies.
  • Job outlook.
  • Job competition.
  • Availability of internship positions.
  • Hours worked per day. Does it involve shift working?
  • Dangers of the job.
  • Security offered.
  • Income potential.
  • Entry level earning potential.
  • Demand on family life.
  • Traveling requirements.
  • Values required in the job.
  • Expansion of career possibilities - how specialized is the career?
  • Typical personality traits found.
  • Typical skills required.

Step 3 of helping your child in career planning

Practical exposure

Once your child has gained knowledge about 5 or 6 suitable career fields, you can help your child to get more practical and first hand experience of each through:

  • Related extra curricular activities.
  • Job shadowing - ask a reliable and trusted person to allow your child to observe a day in the life of a person in the specific career field.
  • Field trip to for instance a manufacturing plant/hospital/farm etc.
  • Help your child to work in the specific field through a summer or holiday job. This can be for free as well.
  • Get a video about the career field for more information on all the jobs available in the career field.

Your child can be exposed to a number of careers in this way through the course of his or her high school career. If your child decides not to follow a career path based on the knowledge and experience gained - it is also a career choice made and you should respect. The idea is to expose your child to enough careers to help the child discover what her or she likes and dislikes.

Teach your child the value of establishing contacts and building a resume from a young age. You can do this by providing a template that your child can use to complete and regularly update his or her CV. Many examples, tools and resources are available at to make this process easy.

Every person your child meets with regards to a career path, should be recorded and the contact details kept. Help your child to develop a network record and calendar that can later be used to find a job placement or a reference.