“When I grow up, I am going to be a singer and I am going to sing on TV in front of all my fans,” said the little girl.
“Well when I grow up, I am going to be a doctor and make other kids better when they are sick,” said the little boy.
Knowing what to be when one grows up is one of the common pursuits that all children engage in. Adults and particularly parents often ask children about what they are going to do because what a person does for a career has a significant impact on his or her standard of living and life satisfaction.
In the end, all parents want their children to be able to grow up, support themselves, and live a good life. A major contributor to those goals is finding a career that is fulfilling and sustaining.
In order for children to succeed in finding a good career, they will need to have a thorough understanding of themselves and understand the world of work. They will also need to be aware of the level of training and education required to enter these careers and be able to make effective decisions.
This is a lot to accomplish during childhood and adolescence. Fortunately, parents can help out. Parents can start guiding their children towards a career early on. It can start by exposing children to a range of professions. Parents can look for opportunities to discuss various careers when they are spending time with their children. One example would be watching a show about rockets and then talking about all of the engineers that it took to make the rocket launch successfully and what those engineers needed to know to make it work.
When children are in elementary school, they will have a range of careers that they will consider. One day a child will want to be a professional basketball player and the next, it will be a scientist. This is typical as children are still exploring all of the careers available to them without regard as to whether they have the skills necessary for a particular career.
Starting in middle school, children start getting a better sense of what their skills are and how they compare to other children. Parents can gently start children thinking about what skills are strengths and how those skills might lead to a possible career. Parents can also talk about their own experiences in various jobs, both ones that were a good fit and those that were not. Children love to hear these stories and are more likely to remember that finding a career takes work and occasional missteps.
By high school, adolescents are ready to start making more concrete and realistic steps towards a career. This can be a good time for them to volunteer, shadow, or interview people in various occupations that they are considering. When adolescents seem to have found a couple of careers that they would like to pursue, parents can ask them about what sort of education and training is required to enter the field. This can lead to further discussions about college and/or vocational training.
By starting early, parents allow their children to explore a range of career options before they start narrowing them down. This lets children have a better chance of finding a career that fits them well. It can all start with the age old question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
This article was published in the Richmond Register daily Sunday on May 10, 2015