United Way of Southwest Virginia, through our Ignite Program, wants to help your child prepare for the workforce of tomorrow. Thank you for allowing us this time to inspire and invest in your child. But we know parents are the most important people to help their children figure out the path they need to take into the future. We ask that you encourage your student to cultivate his/her talents and interests by engaging with them and expressing an interest in their future. That’s a lot of responsibility. But don’t worry! Even if you’re not a career expert, you can have a positive impact.
Nine Ways to Help Your Child Prepare for their Future Career
- Use dreams as a starting point – what does your child dream of doing for a career?
- Share your story – how did you end up in your current career? Would you follow the same path today?
- Find interests and strengths – help your child find out what they are interested in and what they are good at doing.
- Research careers – learn about employers in your town, city and county. What does it take to get a job working at the businesses in your area?
- Connect the dots between education and careers – help your child see that what they are learning in school, from reading and writing to math to problem solving and relating to other people, are all a part of being a successful employee someday.
- Help find a mentor for your child – if your child shows strong interest in a certain career path, help your child find an inspiring mentor in that field.
- Give your child opportunities to try new activities – playing sports, playing an instrument, participating in volunteer opportunities, visiting museums, going to the zoo, taking trips, all of these are ways to explore the world. Watch your children and see which of these activities ignite their interest.
- Encourage your child to choose good friends – who your child chooses to hang out with can greatly affect what they believe is possible and the opportunities they seek.
- Set a great example – your child watches your every move, so work on being a great example of doing work you enjoy.
Nine Questions to Ask Your Child
United Way of Southwest Virginia purchased a computer program your child can use at his/her school to assess personality traits, strengths and interests. You can check out your child’s progress through Power School. Encourage your child to use the program and go over the progress together.
In addition, here are a few of the questions you can ask your child from Kerry Petsinger’s online resource, 30 Powerful Questions to Find Your Passion:
- What makes you happiest?
- What do you get so into that you lose track of time when you do it?
- What aspects about your personality do people compliment you on?
- What comes naturally to you? (Think about times when something has “clicked” for you that others struggle with.)
- What is your ideal work day like? (What time to you get up? What do you wear? What is your schedule? Are you alone or surrounded by people?)
- What makes you a good friend? (Are you a good listener, encouraging, supportive, handy, etc.?)
- If you had the means to solve one big problem in the world what would it be?
- What do you like to learn about?
- If you could snap your fingers and have your dream job right now what would it be?
After your child answers the questions, look for patterns:
- Do the answers indicate your child seeks freedom and adventure? Or do they desire more structure?
- Has your child felt most alive, happy, and excited when they’ve cared for others in their life? A caregiving role might be something they would like.
- Is there a social problem in the world that infuriates your child beyond belief? Your child could study people who have fought for social change, against diseases, etc.)
Seven Things to Do Right Now
Here’s a short summary of what you can do right now to support your child’s career exploration:
- Start with the right attitude. Your encouraging attitude can boost your child’s confidence and excitement about their future.
- Talk with your child about their career dreams. No judgments!
- Share information about your career. Tell them about experiences and decisions that had an impact on your career.
- Help your child pinpoint their interests and strengths. Talk about which skills and activities could be useful for a career.
- Ensure that your child has explored career information using online resources like the software available at their school from United Way of Southwest Virginia and Inside Jobs.
- Encourage your child to plan for training after high school whether it’s through a technical institute, community college, or university.
- Keep talking with your child. Have an open door policy for changing ideas. Planning for the future is not a one-time conversation, it’s ongoing. Don’t forget you can keep up with your child’s journey through the Ignite Program through Power School or your parent portal.
A Short Note on Attitude
Remember: this is your child’s future, not yours. While you are a huge part of helping your child explore careers, the process isn’t about you. Your job is to coach them to successfully attain their goals.
Don’t start with no. Shooting down your child’s ideas is one of the fastest ways to shut them down. If they have a big or unrealistic career dream, encourage them to gather as much information as possible, then draw their own conclusions.
Above all…be positive! Career decisions can seem scary or overwhelming – especially when you are in middle or high school. Your positive and encouraging attitude will make a big difference.
The information provided in this section is adapted from Career Exploration for Childs: A Parent Guide to Starting the Career Conversation from Inside Jobs (www.insidejobs.com) and 7 Ways to Help Your Child Choose a Career by Kerry Petsinger.