Career Counseling for Kids
by Joylynn Rasmussen
Mommy, when I grow up I want to be …
How many times have you asked the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Parents play a vital role in helping their child(ren) start to identify their interests when it comes to the wide world of work.
God has given each of us unique strengths and talents that if discovered and nurtured will influence our career direction. We all invest our skills in something, whether it’s work outside the home or in our families and home. As parents, we can help our kids discover their God-given talents and guide our kids through the process that will help draw out their likes, dislikes, aptitudes, areas of challenge and values related to work. Here are some ways to get the process started:
- Talk regularly with your kids about your job and your spouse’s job. Also talk with them about what family and friends do at their jobs and why. For most of my childhood, I had a hard time explaining what my dad did in his job as a 4-H Extension Director. The world of work is ever-growing and nuanced (e.g., Second Life lawyer, disease mapper, wind turbine fabricator, etc.). Gone are the days when career choices are limited to doctor, nurse, homemaker, teacher and fireman. The more exposure children have to the variety of careers that exist, the better off they’ll be when it comes time to narrowing down their options.
- Encourage volunteerism. Jesus came to serve and instructed us to do the same. One pragmatic consequence of volunteering is that children and teens will begin to identify tasks they find interesting and likely what they will later understand as “purposeful” versus what they could care less about. After one summer of volunteering at my local hospital (and watching one terrifying PBS documentary on the rigors of medical school), I knew that a job in health care was not for me after all. But a few weeks spent teaching at a school for migrant children and at a 4-H camp during summers in middle and high school affirmed my decision to pursue being an educator.
- Arrange informational interviewing/job shadowing. Informational interviewing means asking a person about what they do at work and how they got there. This minimal time commitment allows adolescents to meet with a professional and rack his or her brain for career information. Most people love talking about themselves and what they do, so this is a win-win situation! Parents can help identify interviewees and set up 20- to 30-minute appointments with professionals. Following the appointment, talk with your child about what they learned during the interview and how it may have influenced them about their interests and God-given talents. Job shadowing can provide even more insight since it allows for longer periods of observation and hands-on experience.
Joylynn Rasmussen is a nationally certified counselor and attends a MOPS group in Saginaw, Michigan. She’s the mother of Pascal and wife of Thor.