Professional Development

5 ways to help your teen’s career path

Written by Eric Titner

These days, it’s more challenging than ever for teens to choose the right career path. On top of having a lack of real-world life experience and the self-awareness to help guide them towards making choices that are right for them, the world of work is changing so rapidly these days—the result of accelerating technological innovation, a fluctuating economy, and shifting staffing demands of companies across industries. What’s the end result? Many young adults who are struggling to find their purpose after high school.

The challenges teens face when searching for their ideal careers starts in college, before they even enter the world of work. According to a recent Borderzine article, “About 80 percent of students in the United States end up changing their major at least once, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. On average, college students change their major at least three times over the course of their college career.” This general level of indecisiveness can have serious implications on young adults and their ability to make clear and rational life decisions, on top of adding stress and pressure to an already challenging time in life.

If you’re a parent or guardian of a teen who’s trying to figure out what career path to pursue, consider taking advantage of the following 5 strategies for helping them out.

1. Help them make choices based on who they are.

This one’s important—although you may have big dreams and plans for your teen, your child is not merely an extension of you, and projecting your hopes and wishes for their future on them is not a guaranteed path to career fulfillment. If you want your teen to pursue a career path that has a good chance of making them happy, help them make choices based on who they are and what makes them a unique individual.

2. Empower them to explore their strengths and passions.

Choosing the right career doesn’t have to be a shot in the dark—in fact, it shouldn’t be! If your teen is having trouble making a decision, a great first step is to help them make a list of their strengths, interests, and passions. Once they have a list, it’s much easier to come up with a manageable set of possible career options that might be right for them.

3. Help them find a suitable mentor.

If your teen has an interest in a particular field, a great way to learn more—and discover if it truly is the right path for them—is to help them connect with a prospective mentor in the field who can help them learn the day-to-day realities of life on the job, as well as short-term and long-term career options and outlooks. Intern and volunteer opportunities are excellent ways to get valuable exposure and experience. Don’t forget, industry veterans—no matter how successful—were all once teens with little or no experience, and many will be more than happy to “pay it forward” and help the next generation of employees get their start.

4. Support their choices.

Sure, this seems obvious, but what happens if your teen chooses a career path that you don’t agree with? This happens all the time, and the parents who support and encourage their teens to follow their dreams—whether it’s a choice you wholeheartedly support or think is a bad idea—are much more likely to have teens who are happy and successful, no matter what path they decide to pursue. Be patient, be supportive, and be encouraging to your teen as they grapple with this tough life decision, and you’re much more likely to see a positive result.

5. Set a good example.

The truth is, parents who are happy and fulfilled with their professional choices in life and who stick to and display positive work habits and behaviors are much more likely to have children who make smart choices regarding their career paths—and they’re also much more likely to exhibit similar positive work habits, which will help them achieve success in their chosen fields.

The truth is, teens who have a healthy and productive level of guidance and support from their parents or guardians have a much better chance at making better career choices than their go-it-alone counterparts. Use the strategies presented here to help your teen successfully navigate the career path maze.

About the author

Eric Titner

Eric is a NYC-based editor and writer, with years of experience in career-focused content development across a wide range of industries.