Whose career is it anyway?
Making career choices is a teen’s business, but can parents help?
The battle lines were drawn. A father could not understand why his normally cooperative son now acted headstrong and impossible. This was my first act of rebellion against my father. I had just finished high school and my father, with my mother’s blessing, had gone and organised a job for me at his workplace - without my permission. I refused the offer because it didn’t fit into my envisioned dream future.

I felt like my parents were forcing me into a career of their preference - a job I wasn’t passionate about. In my parent’s opinion, my chosen path was inappropriate for my personality.

‘You’ll struggle in that career,’ they said. ‘With your speech impediment you’ll find it hard to communicate with people. Why not choose a career where you’ll use your hands instead of your speech.’

Listening to them, I rolled my eyes, feeling that the two people who were supposed to be supportive of me were tearing my dream apart. This gave me the willpower to show them how wrong they were.

‘Please let me make my own mistakes,’ I wrote to my parents. ‘This is my life.’

Seeing my dogged determination, my angry parents backed off and allowed me to follow my dream. I’m forever grateful to them for supporting my decision.

Fast forward, a decade or so later I had to admit that my parents had been right after all. Although I did experience a measure of success in my chosen field, I struggled a lot because I had to work harder than my peers to prove my worth. However, I have no regrets for the path I took.

Parents can help career choices

Back then, how could my parents have helped me to choose a suitable career? Could they have marketed their idea more effectively? How could they have helped me to choose an appropriate career after school?

Before the confrontation with my father, I don’t remember sitting down with my parents to discuss career options. It never occurred to me to seek their advice.

Most parents have invaluable insight that can benefit young ones. If only the parents knew how to make that wisdom palatable for their children. If my father had invited me over to visit him at his office and see him at work, I probably would have been less resistant to the idea of joining his firm.

Parents can start by taking extra interest in the school subjects that their young ones decide to major in. For example, if your child majors in the arts there is little chance that he or she will get a job in the science field. Because I’d invested so much time and energy in my chosen profession, I felt that changing to another one meant that I’d wasted a lot of time. My parents’ intervention came a little too late.

Most parents are aware of their young one’s strengths and weaknesses. Parents can use this knowledge to influence their child’s selection of employment. In addition to making the child aware of his or her strengths and weaknesses parents can list a number of jobs that they think suitable for the young one’s personality and interests. To help the child make an informed pick, parents may arrange for him or her to work part time in selected careers or to interview people in those jobs. Children should also be encouraged to attend career guidance courses at school or privately.

I suspect that some people feel stuck in their jobs because they made that career option when they were young, inexperienced and uninformed. A little help from their parents, back then, might have steered them in the right direction. The careers that our children choose will have a huge impact on their lives. With a little help from us they can choose the right option. However, we have to remember to accept, support and respect their ultimate choice.
Will teens listen to parents’ career advice? Should they?

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