As a parent, you play a vital role in helping your child sift through their career options — discussing their interests and how these may translate to an occupation, addressing their questions and concerns, helping them transition to further study… and the list goes on.
There are three main career development approaches among young people:
- Those that have a firm and specific career focus
- Those who form more general ideas about work options based on their own values, interests, skills and aptitudes
- Those who do not know what they want to do or are disinterested in career planning
Assisting with career planning isn’t always an easy process; as seen above, some students will have a very specific career goal in mind, while others may not know what types of jobs are available or what it takes to gain a qualification. With career discussion, it’s better to start early — usually around Year 9 or so, before it comes time to think about subject choices or tertiary study. In some schools, your child may even encounter careers education in primary school, so it’s best to be prepared for when the questions begin rolling in.
Keep the following tips in mind for when it’s time to talk about careers with your child.
How to approach the initial careers conversation
- Do a bit of research on your own first
If you know your child is interested in a particular field, take some time to research what courses are available, where they are offered (at university, TAFE or private colleges) and what types of entry requirements they will need to meet, such as a particular ATAR range. If you know that they’re not interested in pursuing tertiary study, take some time to look into alternate options, such as apprenticeships or traineeships. You can also look into alternative pathways your child may need to take to achieve their career goal, such as completing study at TAFE before progressing to university.
- Be prepared to answer questions
Your child might ask how you chose your career, how old you were when you cemented your career goals or whether you faced any obstacles along the way (such as changing career direction, hating your first job and so on).
- Try not to let your own opinions get in the way
If your child is considering an occupation that doesn’t interest you, or you feel that it’s not gender-appropriate, remember that it’s not up to you. Making suggestions is okay, such as occupations with better career prospects, but you should not try to steer them away from jobs in which they’re interested.
How to help with subject choices
As your child approaches their senior years of schooling, they will be given more freedom in choosing their subjects. The ‘best’ subject choices for senior years will vary between students. For some, it may be better to stick to a broad range that will allow entry into various fields when it comes time to apply for tertiary study. For others, who have a good idea of what they’d like to study, it makes more sense to frame subject choices around the prerequisites of a certain field. Design courses, for example, will usually require completion of subjects such as art and visual communication.
Giving insight into an occupation
If your child has a particular occupation in mind, encourage them to explore it through a work placement. Most schools will offer formal work experience programs (usually one or two weeks long) at some point in the senior years of schooling. Students are typically responsible for organising their own placements, but schools may provide a list of employers who have previously taken on a student from the school. Remember, though, that some placements can be very competitive, so you should also encourage your child to think outside the box — if they are interested in becoming a vet but can’t secure a placement in a practice, why not try an animal shelter?
There are a number of benefits to completing work experience, such as gaining a reference to add to their résumé, or in some cases, even being offered a part-time job at the conclusion of the program.