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Help Your Child Make Career Decisions
< Career Exploration

Help Your Child Make Career Decisions

Parents can have a strong influence on their children's decisions about education and careers.

Why Is My Help Important?
Parents have a significant interest in and influence on their child's future.
  • Research shows that parents have the greatest influence on their child's career choices.
  • You know your child better than anyone else.
  • You have more interest in helping your child choose a rewarding career than anyone else.
  • Your child's future is too important to be left to luck or chance.
  • Children need guidance to choose the best education and career path.
  • Your child should explore many different careers, thinking about what he or she likes and dislikes about each before focusing on a particular path.
  • It is important to have a career plan in place before investing time, energy and money in college.
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How Do I Help My Child Make Career Plans?
You can be an active partner with your child as he or she takes steps to develop a career plan.

Identify your child's interests, skills and values
  • Work with your child's school guidance counselors to use formal assessment instruments (see Helping Your Child Identify Interests).
  • Talk about likes and dislikes with your child, and discuss how those preferences might relate to career choices.
Learn about careers
  • Help your child gather written information about his or her career interests.
  • Talk with people who work in those fields.
  • Help him or her get work experience in the fields in which he or she is interested.
  • Use online tools such as the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Information Network (O*Net) to see how your child's skills align with particular careers (choose "Skills Search").
Set primary and secondary goals
Make sure your child considers a range of possible careers around his or her interests (for example, a child who wants to be a professional athlete could also consider a career in sports medicine, sports promotion, coaching or physical education).

Create and follow an educational plan
Help your child choose high school courses that will prepare him or her for college or other postsecondary training in his or her preferred field.

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What Career Information Does My Child Need?
Help your child ask the questions that may help determine if a particular career is right for him or her.
  • What will I do in a typical workday?
  • What preparation/education do I need?
  • Where can I get training for this career?
  • Will there be jobs available when I complete my training?
  • How much does this job pay? Can I live the way I want to on that salary?
  • What knowledge and skills are used in this work?
  • Are these knowledge and skill areas in which I am already strong, or will I need additional development? How do I get that development?
  • What are the opportunities for advancement in this career?
  • Is the work environment (indoors/outdoors, office/factory, groups/alone) one in which I work best?
  • Does the work require physical activity, and am I willing and able to perform at the level required?
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How Can I Help My Child Experience Careers?
While your child is in middle and high school, he or she can participate in many career exploration activities. These may include:
  • Informational interviewing. Encourage your child to call people who work in the fields in which he or she is interested. He or she can ask:
    • What do you do in a typical day?
    • How did you decide on this career?
    • What kind of training did you need for this career?
    • What do you like most about your work?
    • What do you like least about your work?

  • Career fairs. At a career fair, people from a range of fields and jobs talk about what their work is like and what kind of education and training you need for that work. You can attend career fairs with your child and talk about the various careers represented.

  • Job shadowing. Your child can "shadow" people at work as they go about their daily activities (see for more information).

  • Internships and work-based learning. Your child could explore career interests while gaining academic credit. Some internship and work-based learning programs are paid.

  • Volunteer work. Your child can volunteer for a business or organization in his or her career interest area.

  • Vocational classes. Your child's high school may offer vocational classes in a field in which he or she is interested. This is a good way for him or her to get hands-on experience with the tools and skills used in that field.

  • Field Trips. Your child can participate in school field trips or you can arrange a field trip on your own to a business or organization in which he or she is interested.
Remember that career choice is a personal decision. Do not try to steer your child to a particular career because you think it is something you might like.

Be aware that your child may change his or her career interest as he or she is exposed to more careers. Continue to encourage your child as career choices change. The more informed he or she is, the better his or her career choices will be.

For More Information
  •   U.S. Department of Labor.
  • Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • America's Career Resource Network. The ACRN State Info page has contacts for career information in your state.
  • Occupational Information Network (O*Net), U.S. Department of Labor.
  • America's Career InfoNet, U.S. Department of Labor.
  • Building Your Child's Future Together, American School Counselor Association, Undated.
  • Your Child's Career, A Website for Parents, The Partnership for Academic and Career Education.
  • Career Decision Making, Georgia Career Information System, 2002.
  • The National Career Development Guidelines