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How to help your kids get the careers they want

It’s never been tougher for young people to find a foothold on the labour market so how, as parents, can we help them get ahead?

Girl at laptop

The working world, if you haven’t noticed, is in flux. Entire industries have crumbled and others have risen from obscurity. What that means for our teenagers and young people has yet to come into focus but it’s safe to say, it’s going to be a world away from the sort of landscape that was presented to us on leaving education.

So how, as a parent, can you assist? (In a non-interfering manner and from the sidelines, naturally.) Well, Careers Collective might be a good first port of call. Founded during lockdown by a former Head of Sixth Form Tina Harrigan-James and careers coach Sally Everist (below), the aim is to furnish teenagers and school leavers (and their parents!) with the self-knowledge and support required to make good, informed, and – subsequently – fulfilling career decisions.

Careers collective

So, if you are harbouring a concerned – or more likely, ambivalent – teen in your home right now, read on to get some solid, structured tips on how to get them to go from XBox master to most promising candidate.

7 coaching tips to help your teen make smart career moves

Who do you think you are?
Young people are usually asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” But what the question should really be is: “Who are you?” Because when considering what job to pursue, you should be thinking about what causes you stress; if you’re a morning person; if you’re task-focused or people focused. We are also frequently told to follow our passions but it’s not always a given that our favourite hobbies will pay the bills or that our enthusiasm is matched by ability. If we take the view that a career is the way we choose to engage with the world, a good thing to do is make a mind map of skills, talents, qualifications and expertise built up so far. Then encourage your teen to research Labour Market Information (LMI), which they can overlay on their mind map. This will illustrate growth sectors, skills that are in demand and lifestyle expectations in the roles and industries that emerge. It’s a reality check that helps identify what part of the mind map to prioritise.


Help them set goals
Career development should be an active process. Teenagers spend a lot of time getting things done to them and it’s really important they’re in charge. So, encourage them to evolve from exploring into goal setting. We suggest a ‘What if?’ exercise based on the mind map and research. For instance: What if I fail my exams? What if I change my mind? What if I get homesick? Questions such as these should help to identify practical, psychological or emotional barriers which might stop your teen achieving their goals and give you both the chance to resolve them now.


And…. Action!
Bruce Bogtrotter knew that all he had to do to finish Miss Trunchbull’s enormous chocolate cake was to simply take one bite at a time. We recommend taking a leaf out of Bruce’s life manual to get through the process of finding certificates, revising, or constructing a CV, which – let’s be honest – doesn’t set anyone’s world on fire. However, it is essential to learn how to network and this can be exciting. Knowledge in networking, commercial awareness and personal branding makes a huge difference, both in career outcomes and the quality of the journey. Encourage your child to identify their existing ‘village of support’ and look at filling the gaps relative to their career goals.


Don’t be complacent
A common teenage career goal is the achievement of predicted grades. And once this box has been ticked, the temptation is to disappear with a surfboard for two months. Yes, downtime is crucial but that shouldn’t result in focus being lost. So get them to think: what growth and development opportunities are there for the taking before the next career challenge? Perhaps, it’s the reading list for the next course? The acquisition of a First Aid certificate? Building (for over-18s) a LinkedIn profile? There is always opportunity to grow.


Adapt and thrive
Although 2020 seems to have taken its inspiration from He Who Must Not Be Named, this year has given us all at least one gift and that is the opportunity to acquire some resilience. A useful exercise for the entire family to try is to identify when and how this year each of you has been resilient. Identifying past examples of resilience is future-proofing – like Harry Potter, we know we can cast the Patronus because we already have.  


How’s it going?
Too often, once we have met a career goal, we move ahead smoothly into our next phase without looking back. Any coach knows that the process of review can be extremely powerful, and it is best completed when, as Bjork would say, ‘It’s oh, so quiet’. Quite how to review is another matter. We like to encourage an instinctive response because that can reveal a lot. Just asking, ‘Write down three words in a minute to describe how this course has been so far’, for instance, can often be the start of a meaningful conversation. It might show if there are skill gaps that need filling or if a slight realignment is necessary.


Get ready to reinvent! 
The natural emphasis when speaking with teens about careers is on beginnings, not reinvention. However, at Careers Collective we often make reference to a book called The 100-Year Life that talks about how we still cling on to this idea that life is a three-stage affair where you have your education, a career, and then you retire. But 50% of young people are expected to live until they’re 100 so they can’t think about retiring at 65. Career development is lifelong and we continue to engage our talents, skills, knowledge and expertise with the world throughout our lives, whether as an employee or volunteer. We encourage parents to talk this through with their teens as young people need to know and understand that reinvention is an expected and exhilarating aspect of career development. Talk about change as a moment of opportunity rather than crisis. Yes, when a significant change – such as Covid – occurs it’s frightening and unsettling, but what comes out of the other side, this scrambled mix, can be very exciting and offer up new possibilities. 


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