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Articles » Child Career

Guiding Your Child in Choosing the Right Career

“Many things can wait; the child cannot. Now is the time his bones are being formed, his mind is being developed. To him, we cannot say tomorrow, his name is today.”
– Gabriela Mistral (poet/educator)

What is the right career choice for your child? This is the inevitable conundrum that is part and parcel of the responsibilities of parenthood. When we ask ourselves this question, we need to take into consideration a range of factors. However, before delving deeper into the matter, it is of utmost importance, for you as a parent, to know and understand where your guidance ends and your child’s independent thought and decision making begins. Here we discuss how to effectively guide your child in choosing the right career for herself - a career that not only sustains her financially, but also one that she will enjoy waking up to everyda.

Before we discuss the right way to go about things, let’s consider some clichéd ways in which you can go wrong.
  • Start Early

Given the magnitude of importance of the decision at hand, the earlier you start your guidance to your child, the better her chances of finding the career that is exactly right for her. There are different stages at which your child will be making crucial decisions which will have large impacts on the choices that are available to them. Make sure they understand fully the implications of their decisions. For example, if your child decides to pursue commerce or art subjects in her 12th grade, she will be limiting her scope of careers than if she chose mathematics and sciences.

  • Following the herd by believing in a rigid hierarchy of careers that spell success.

Human beings are unique individuals. We are born with different capabilities and brought up in different surroundings. Each individual is unique in her set of beliefs and experiences. Therefore there is no perceivable reason to believe that there is only one right career path for everyone. In the sub-continent, a rather time resistant belief has been that the only ‘right’ careers are in the professions of medicine and engineering. While these occupations have their obvious benefits financially and otherwise, they aren’t necessarily the right careers for everyone. Breaking away from this mindset will be a huge step forward.

  • Assuming and incessantly reminding your child that you know what is best for her.

It is a fact that we have been around for a longer time than our children and that our life experiences put us in a better position to make decisions than our children. However, this does not mean we reserve the right to force our children to follow what we believe is the right course of action. You were a child in a different time, a time with fewer opportunities and information channels. Accept this and allow your child some leeway in making her own career choice.

  • Expecting your child to follow in your footsteps.

Making sure that your child is aware of her duties towards her family as a whole is an important part of parenting. However, understand the fact that your child is a unique individual with her own ambitions and interests, besides being part of your family. Unless she shows extreme interest or the natural talent needed for your profession on her own accord, do not assume your child will follow in your footsteps. This can put her under a lot of unnecessary pressure and leave her stressed and de-motivated.

  • Living vicariously through your child.

It is almost always the case that you have been through harder times than your children. You could have been from lesser financially able families, with several siblings and looming responsibilities. For these reasons, you may have had to give up your career ambitions in order to look after the immediate needs of your family. Given that your child is being brought up in much better circumstances, you may assume she can pursue the career that you so wanted but had to give up. Again, unless your child displays an innate talent and interest for that particular career, it is probably not worthwhile trying to force her to take it up.

  • Comparing your child with her peers

Another way in which you can put undue pressure on your child is by comparing her career choice with that of her siblings and peers. Learn to embrace your child’s individuality, abilities and interests, regardless of whether they immediately translate into possible successful careers.

Getting it right
“Many studies show that young people cite their parents most frequently as the main influence in their occupational plans. No other group even comes close.”
--Sarah M. Shoffner and Richard H. Klemer, 1973

Your child’s career decision is a very important determinant of her future. It is your duty as a parent to guide her in making the right choice. The following are a few tips on how you can better go about this.

  • Encourage versatility

Let’s face it; most of us are not born with the knowledge of what we want to do for a living. While it is important that your child’s education is honed towards one particular goal, it is therefore also important that you encourage her to engage in as many diverse activities as possible. Encourage her to develop skills that will have benefits whatever career she chooses. For example, strong mathematical skills enhance her career choices quite considerably. The knowledge of several languages enhances her versatility geographically. Extra curricular activities portray an image of a balanced lifestyle: a quality an increasing number of employers find extremely attractive.

  • Keep it informal

Make your discussions with your child regarding her career informal so that she does not feel burdened by them. This is important if you want to be effective in helping her out with her career choice without making the whole process a chore.

  • Give her the hard facts

In our time and age, no stone has been left unturned with regards to analyzing the pros and cons of various career paths. Nurture the habit of making informed decisions early on in your child’s life. Inform her of the various online sources of career information. Make sure she understands her choices and their implications in terms of time commitment and finances. Try to your best abilities to make sure she is fully satisfied with her choice.

  • Be supportive

So what if your child does not choose a career path that you think is right for her? This does not mean that she will not require your guidance and support. Ensure that you back your child with her career decisions as much as possible, even though you may sometimes disapprove. Do not give her cold treatment for going against your will. State your case for your lack of approval but do not force her into something she is not prepared for.

In conclusion, it is worthwhile mentioning that while your child’s career decision is very important, it should not be allowed to get in the way of her childhood. The precious few years of childhood are the only time when it is acceptable to be who we truly are. Once again, it is all about striking that perfect balance.

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