Career Advice for High School Students: What do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

Summer is here and most kids have time off to hang out, have fun, and possibly work a summer job so that they can earn a little extra cash on the side. For many of them, this summer job might give them a thought or two about what they want to do for a long-term career. For others, it might not. And yet the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is one they will be asked until they graduate college– sometimes even longer than that.

While you want your high school child to have fun and enjoy his or her youth, choosing a job or career is important. It also makes choosing a college and setting short-term goals easier, because the long-term goal is clear. Unfortunately, deciding on a career isn’t easy. Plus, when kids are in high school, they see themselves as being frustrated adults unable to live their lives the way they want, which makes it difficult for you to help them.

So, here are some suggestions that may help you frame the conversation with your young adult child so that they can see the options and take your guidance into consideration.

If they have passion in life, don’t squash it. Even if you think the chance of them becoming a super star actor or actress are slim, cutting down their dream will not only hurt their self- esteem, it will stop them from listening to you. A person needs to develop a healthy, balanced self image, so realistically encourage their talents. Besides, the talents they display in their dream profession could positively impact their employment down the line.

Let’s follow the acting example. Acting and improvisation classes help one to speak in public in front of people, which is an essential skill for upper management at any company. If they can keep an audience engaged, that can translate to any group of people, be it in a theater, at a union rally, or in a Fortune 500 board room.

Suggest they create a list of 5-10 jobs that may interest them. From there, see if they can organize them. The easiest way to do that is to give each job a different sheet of paper and list the positive and negative options of working in that field. You may not know everything about a given field, and that’s okay; that’s what the computer is for. Let your young person tell you what he or she knows about the job, then suggest the two of you do some more research together online. You’ll learn something, and it will show your child you aren’t just offering random career advice, but that you’re engaged and care about their decision-making process.

Help your child get a meeting with a school counselor who may have some thoughts on the matter. But, be warned: There are countless stories of negative teachers and counselors who have told students they’ll never be able to achieve their dream job. That’s why it’s vital that you stay engaged during this process so that you can help your son or daughter out if they run into any of these road blocks.

Alternatively, if there’s a local college that interests your child, try to arrange a meeting with the career counselor there. Being on a college campus may inspire your kid to consider larger opportunities. If the job they’re looking at is very specific, ask around. You may have a friend on Facebook or LinkdIn who can give your child an informational meeting.

Some young people have ideas that change with the seasons. Perhaps it’s because their interests have shifted, or maybe the challenges of a particular dream job was too much for them to really take in. It happens. Don’t let it discourage you or your child.

Also, know that a dream can adapt. For example, say your son’s grades aren’t good enough to become a doctor. There are still numerous jobs in the medical field that he can pursue and enjoy. Sometimes a career hunt isn’t about a perfect match, it’s about finding the right match.

Sometimes kids don’t know what they want to do. They haven’t found their passion yet. But, that doesn’t mean they’re going to wind up homeless or living in your attic forever.

Every job needs people who can read and write well, analyze information, and do math. So, keep your child focused on the basics– reading, writing, arithmetic– and they’ll be good to go once their path reveals itself. It’s also good to constantly expose them to new experiences until something does inspire them. Ultimately, you want your child to be happy, so with a strong foundation like that you can’t go wrong.