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Help Your Children Discover the Work They Were Designed to Do

Help Your Children Discover the Work They Were Designed to Do

by Kevin Brennfleck and Kay Marie Brennfleck 
National Certified Career Counselors and Life Calling CoachesSM


It may be hard to picture, but one day your children will be working adults. As parents, there are things you can do while your children are young that will help them make good career choices later on. You are gambling with your children's future if you are relying on their schools to give career direction, or assuming they will somehow "figure it out" when they get older.

Statistically, a majority of adults have difficulty finding work that fits. A recent Gallup study found that 54 percent of employees are dissatisfied, not engaged, and just "putting in their time" with no passion for their work. Many ultimately give up hope of finding a better job, just living for the week-end and looking to make it through until they retire.

You don't want your children to be part of that group! The good news is there are actions you can take now to help your young children or teens in the future to discover the work they are designed to do: meaningful, energizing work that uses their top skills and interests. Here are some keys for preparing each of your children for his or her future career:

Help your child understand his or her unique design.

— Many adults have difficulty seeing what is special and unique about themselves. This is true of children, as well. Pay attention to your child's or teen's skills and interests, and mirror back what you observe. ("Kyle, you are very creative in coming up with your own design for making vehicles out of building blocks." OR "Jana, you did a terrific job organizing that youth event. Few students your age would have thought of all of those details.")

— Engage your child in discussing his or her interests, and making connections with career options. ("Susan, you do a lot of baking. What do you enjoy about it? Here's an article I found about a woman who runs a business making special birthday cakes.")

— As a junior or senior in high school, have your child complete a thorough assessment of his or her skills, interests, values and personality traits. In addition, make sure that a trained professional (a school guidance counselor or career counselor) interprets the results, helping your child understand what the results mean and how they can be used in exploring career options and making a good career choice as a young adult.

Expose your child to a wide variety of careers.

Children and many teens have limited vision about the career options that are "out there" in the world of work. They may know what their parents and relatives do for work, and they may have been exposed to a few other jobs through the media. There are, however, literally thousands of jobs they most likely will not encounter in their everyday lives.

As a parent, you can help your children widen their "tunnel vision" by intentionally introducing them to a variety of different career options. Remember that your children can only choose from the work options of which they are aware. The more they know about the world of work, therefore, the greater the likelihood that they will discover a career path that fits their design. Here are some activities you can do together:

— Talk about the different jobs done by people your child knows: you, your spouse, relatives, friends, etc. Help your child to set up "informational interviews" to talk with people who do work that is of interest to your son or daughter. Assist you child in setting up appointments to talk with people about what they do on the job. Your child can ask questions such as: What do you do in a typical day? What do you like/dislike about your job? What type of education or training is needed for this type of work? What suggestions do you have for me to learn more about this area of work?

— Watch programs on TV, DVDs, video clips on YouTube, etc. that show people engaged in various occupations. Read age-appropriate books or articles about both familiar and unfamiliar jobs. With teens, use Internet resources such as the Occupational Outlook Handbook and the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) that are published by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Model good career and life planning skills.

Research shows that parents have a great influence on their children's career choices. Our children are most affected by what they see us doing with our own lives. Also, we can only guide our children as far as we have gone ourselves. If you have struggled with your own career path, you still can be a great role model and guide for your children. Here are some suggestions:

— Talk to your children about your own interests, skills, and values and how they relate to work, hobbies, or volunteer activities you have enjoyed doing.

— If your work has been dissatisfying (and/or you need to re-enter the work force), take pro-active steps to explore work options that would fit you well-and talk to your children about what you are doing. Even in a tough economy, you can develop a career goal and action plan that will move you from where you are to where you want to be.

Each of us makes many career decisions throughout our lives. You can empower your children to make good choices by helping them understand their unique design and how it fits with interesting career options. You can equip your children not only to find work they enjoy, but also to make a difference in this world.

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