The question “What career should I pick?” is a daunting question especially for 16-18 year olds as they exit high school and start looking into college or university programs. There is much riding on making the right choice especially with the prices of good education increasing. Many parents and children struggle with making this decision. During this period, there is a high risk of disagreement and conflict as the clash of minds, wills, and personalities take place because of the arduous and often difficult task of choosing a career path. That being said, there is hope! Here are the AEIOU’s to making career decisions with your teens:
A: Ask the Right Question
When tackling this life question of career choice, the first step that may ease this pressure is reframing the question “What do I want to be when I grow up?” to “What do I want to do when I grow up?” This is a shift from having the career choice define the child as a person to having the child define their career choice based on their personal goals and values. This small but critical step of empowering your child to take ownership in the career decision could ultimately lead to good performance in the program and satisfaction with career choice.
E: Explore and Understand Options
With the advancement of time, science, research, and globalization, the number of career options has increased tremendously. With the boom of new careers and sub-specialties, students and parents are increasingly faced with the options of traditional and non-traditional careers. To address this multitude of choices, it is wise for parents and children to explore and understand what is involved in the current traditional and non-traditional career possibilities. Addressing the concern of the stability of the non-traditional careers, primarily expressed by parents, is important. A thorough exploration of the job prospect, job description, job advancement prospects and more is necessary in making informed choices.
I: Individual Personality and Work Environment
The third consideration would be exploring the fit between personality and the work environment. Answering the question “Who am I?” “What are my goals and values in life?” are crucial especially in finding how it fits with a particular career choice. A good fit implies a close link between an individual’s personality and the demands/ nature of the job and job environment. The closer the fit between personality and career choice, the more likely it is that an individual would feel satisfied in their careers. It is important to note that career choices impact our personality and goals over time. It is a reciprocal relationship. However, at the career decision making stage, starting with understanding one’s personality is key. There are many resources available for career and personality testing.
O & U: Other (Child) and You (Parent) Relationship
The final and probably most crucial part of this career decision making stage is the relationship between parent and child. Open communication, non-conflictual communication, support and collaboration are important aspects to helping teens have confidence in their career choices. Hargrove, Creagh, and Burgess (2002) found that “the more students perceived conflict within the family, the less confidence they expressed toward engaging in their own career planning and decision-making tasks.” Teens and parents should collaborate in finding information, talking to professionals, exploring interests and personalities, especially at the early stage of career exploration. Parent’s healthy relationship with their children can provide the environment where their teens can make good informed choices.
Making career choices is a rite of passage for most individuals. Some individuals do not have the luxury of having options and are forced into career paths because of financial constraints and/or familial influences. However, for those who have the options, considering these AEIOU’s can increase the chances of making the best informed decision at this stage. These informed decisions will likely lead to career satisfaction and overall health in the long run.
Hargrove, B. K., Creagh, M. G., & Burgess, B. L. (2002). Family interaction patterns as predictors of vocational identity and career decision-making self-efficacy. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 61, 185-201.
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