Teenagers are notoriously prickly creatures. If you ask them to do something, they will invariably do something different. As a result, offering careers advice to a teenager is fraught with difficulties. If you approach the conversation in the wrong way, it’s likely that your teenager won’t listen, or even if they do, deliberately throw your advice back in your face and do something different.
Get the Ball Rolling
The first thing you need to do is get the ball rolling and open the line of communication. For most parents, the right time to broach the subject of careers is when a teenager is on the cusp of leaving school and college is on the cards. However, don’t rush into their bedroom ready to advocate the benefits of careers for MBA graduates. They might not be considering further education at this point, so finding out more about career paths for MBA graduates is not on their radar. Instead, start with a general discussion and see where their interests lie right now.
A Skills Check
The sensible thing to do from the start is to think carefully about where your teenager’s skills lie. Some kids are more academic than others are, so your son or daughter struggles at school, it’s a waste of your time and theirs trying to encourage them to apply for college. On the other hand, if you know your teenager is bright enough to go to college, but lacking in motivation, now is a good time to start discussing the benefits of a degree education.
Empathy and Understanding
Use a good dose of empathy and understanding to help you see things from your child’s perspective. If they are telling you they want to travel around Africa for a year, but you think they should apply to college, try to see things from their perspective. It might help you figure out where they are coming from.
Try to be supportive at all times. Having an argument about the merits of a state college education versus a course at the local community college is not going to help anyone. First, listen to what your son or daughter wants to do with their life, even if it is not what you might have chosen for them. Unless their career plans are so far removed from reality they stand zero chance of making it happen, look at ways to help them.
A Reality Check
Be realistic about your teenager’s prospects. Just because you are determined your child should go into medicine or law, it doesn’t mean they are cut from the right cloth. Look at the type of person they are, what their skills are, and take it from there.
At the end of the day, you need to make sure your teenager is happy. Career success matters not one iota if a teenager is deeply unhappy with their chosen pathway in life and there are many pushy parents who would do well to remember that.