Career ambitions are something we should develop early in our lives: so says a study conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The study found that there was little change in kids’ career ambitions between the ages of seven and seventeen. With countless studies showing that kids who believed they were working towards a career ambition do better in school, it’s worrying that most kids won’t think further than careers they’re already familiar with through the adults they meet in day-to-day life. Having a good match between temperament and career choice is also an issue – at least if kids are to remain happy in their careers in adult life. Can you help to broaden their horizons?
1. Personality and Interest Tests for Adolescents
Just because personality is still being formed doesn’t mean that it isn’t there. And, much as we may think we know our kids’ personalities and interests, psychometric testing can shed extra light on the subject, and even present a few surprises. The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is among these, and the results will suggest career avenues worth exploring. As a caveat, this test is not suitable for very young children but may be helpful for over-fourteens.
Although results may change over time, your adolescent may be identified as an ISFP personality type, for example. The ISFP meaning sheds light on the careers that may be suited for a personality known as the “versatile supporter.” Recommended career options for ISFPs include fashion designer, optician, or less surprisingly, preschool teacher. In many ways, interest tests are similar. They identify the things people are most interested in doing, and from there, it becomes possible to compile a list of possible careers.
2. Don’t Narrow Things Down too Soon
While your child may seem to have fallen in love with a career already, giving him or her broad exposure to a range of professions and career options will help to ensure that disillusionment with one ambition doesn’t kill ambition altogether. There are lots of fun career-related activities for kids of all ages. Talking about different careers, meeting role models that do specific types of work, and visits to different types of workplaces will be an eye-opener for kids. If they seem to change their minds several times based on new information they’ve gleaned, that’s perfectly OK. There’s still plenty of time for them to weigh up their career options before plunging into the world of work or devoting themselves to a specific tertiary study direction.
3. Link Learning and Activity Preferences to Career Options
As school children, kids are already showing a greater interest in some activities and study topics than in others. Find out what they really enjoy doing, and see if you can link that forward to the kind of career that will give them a satisfying working life. On the other side of the coin, see if you can stimulate interest in some of the subjects and activities they’re less keen on by highlighting their usefulness to or relationship with the working world. Seeing the usefulness of knowledge could help to motivate kids to work harder at certain subjects they previously didn’t have much interest in and could even help them to develop new career ambitions.
4. Encourage Fantasy and Role Play, but Point out Realities
Like it or not, TV and movies are big influencers. You’ll often find kids pretending to be characters in their favorite shows and films. It’s a great way to develop the imagination and to have fun, but as most adults know, the real-life jobs of law-enforcement officers, medical professionals, and even office workers is very different from anything portrayed on film. Believing that reality is anything like fantasy could set them up for disappointment, so gently point out the differences between fiction and reality and try to find real-life people in the careers that seem to interest them for a reality check.
5. Don’t Impose your Preferences
As parents, we want nothing but the best for our kids – but what we think is best in terms of careers and what will suit them as individuals may be two different things. Try to avoid the very natural urge to guide kids in directions you may have liked for yourself and be supportive of their ideas and interests instead of trying to shape them to a mould that may not fit. Most of all, keep the pressure off and keep it positive.