“Do you know what you want to do when you grow up?” The reality is that most kids don’t have the slightest clue. And when they’re asked, they typically have one of two responses. Either they think it’s really far off and that they don’t need to think about it now (whether that’s true or not). Or, they’re suddenly full of anxiety, overwhelmed at even the thought of having to figure it out. You, of course, want only the best for them. So how can you help them navigate through that transition without encroaching on their decisions?

Know the Facts

  • Students typically have some time before they have to declare their major. Most schools require they choose before the end of their sophomore year, allowing them to take general graduation requirements at the beginning. For most majors, this approach still leaves enough time in the last two years to finish the classes required for their major. Some specialized programs may be an exception to this method, in which case they will need to select their major earlier on…or be in school for a longer time.
  • Statistics show that the average adult has roughly 11 to 12 jobs after the age of 18. In fact, many people pursue a career that’s completely different from their college major. You might think that your student should pick a major and stick with it for their entire career. However, that’s highly unlikely. The good news is that there are so many success stories of people who changed their mind but still built a career they love. Maybe you’re one of those people or know someone who is. Tell that story to your child. It would probably be extremely reassuring for them to hear.
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Keep the Lines of Communication Open

  • Tell your teen you’re there to help if they need it, but you want them to make their own decision. This approach will help encourage an open dialogue.
  • Ask questions: What are some of your favorite things to do? What inspires you? What are you good at? Do you look up to someone in a particular field? What type of environment do you want to work in? Do you want a high earning potential, a stable salary, or something in between? What’s important to you?
  • Depending on what they answer, help them do some additional research. If you have ideas of your own, feel free to share them.
  • Tell them you’re there to answer any questions they might have.
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Provide Ideas and Be Supportive

  • One of the best ways to learn more about a career is by talking to someone who’s currently working in that industry. You may want to suggest that your teen meet and interview someone working in that field or ask about job-shadowing. Both offer great platforms for asking questions and learning firsthand about a potential career path.
  • The next step is for them to get some on-the-job training. Part-time jobs and internships are great ways to experience what a specific career field might be like. Students can envision what their day-to-day job will entail and determine if it’s something they want to pursue.
  • Although it will likely come from your best intentions, don’t tell them they need to pursue a specific career just because it’s what you think they should do. It’s important that they do their own research and make the decision that they think is best for them. And, if they come up with an idea you don’t agree with, let them try it out without judgment. Hopefully, in the end, they’ll make the right choice…even if it doesn’t match your thinking.

Bottom line? Be there for them, ask questions, and be helpful‚ but let them do it themselves. If they’re going to be successful adults, they need to learn how to analyze situations and then make appropriate decisions. They need your love and support in order to do it on their own. You’ve gotten them this far successfully‚ now let them fly out into the world!


Headshot - Leanne Ross Leanne Ross is the Founder & CEO of IVY LADDER, an online program equipping Millennials and Generation Z with the necessary tools to land an internship and ultimate dream job after graduation. To learn more, check out Student Career Academy and her follow on Linkedln or Facebook.

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