Congratulations! You’ve done a great job of raising a fantastic and inspired young woman! But now that she’s nearing the end of her childhood, how can you best support her to clarify and achieve her goals?
It’s a really tricky question, and one that most parents struggle with.
So don’t worry, you’re not alone! Here are my top five tips that you can implement today:
Talk with her
It sounds simple, but by helping your young woman to identify her areas of interest, you will be instantly helping her to explore areas that may well form the basis for her first career. I say first career, as today’s average school leaver will likely have numerous careers – some even estimate between 5 – 7 times! Exploring areas of interests also often leads to identification of key skill areas. Key questions to ask your young women include: What are your favourite subjects at school? Do you enjoy school, and if not, what are the parts that you do like and the parts that you don’t? What do you like to do outside of school?
Take a chill pill
Now, I know that this is probably like waving a red flag to a bull for some of you and at this point you might be questioning my authority on this one, but stick with me. The final three years of high-school are generally a great source of stress for young women (and young men), and they receive messages from many different sources such as teachers, careers advisors, friends, coaches etc about the importance of ‘doing well’ and ‘picking the right subjects / job’. It’s very easy to become caught up in this process, but rather than add to these messages, be prepared to offer solutions to your young person’s questions and help them explore options. The reality in terms of career development, is that whilst achievement at this age may influence early careers, it is by no means indicative of what your young person will achieve in their lifetime. There are numerous examples of high profile, high achievers who did not necessarily have a definite plan at the end of their secondary schooling or who pulled out of tertiary education very early on: Think Richard Branson, Coco Chanel, and Ellen DeGeneres.
Encourage work experience
Work experience is a fantastic tool for dipping your toes in and getting a feel for a job type that your young woman feels like she may be interested in. It is a unique opportunity, in which a job can reveal itself to be the ‘dream role’ and exactly what you young person thought it would be, or the ‘not what I thought it was’ role, and help to identify new areas of like and dislike. It’s also a great chance for your young person to meet and speak with people who actually work in the field, who can provide realistic feedback on a range of topics like the industry standard study pathway, job availability, hours of work, physical and psychological needs of the job etc. A particularly helpful strategy may be to plan useful questions with your young woman – consider what have been the big questions you’ve needed to ask in your own career, and how these might translate to her work experience. Formal work experience programs are generally offered through most high schools these days, but if your young woman is interested in a few different fields, why not seek additional placements. Need help finding work experience opportunities? The Careers Advisor at school is always a good place to start, but depending on which industry you are looking for an opportunity in, employers may offer volunteer roles directly.
Get excited about ‘first jobs’
Skills learned in first jobs are rarely wasted. While some of them may not always be directly transferable to your young woman’s longer term career goal, she will be learning many highly valuable skills at her first job, regardless of what it is. Often, our first jobs are the first real time we are forced to initiate and engage in adult conversation outside of our immediate circle of family, friends, sporting groups or activity groups. Learning how to appropriately interact with others is invaluable, and will likely become increasingly important in the workforce – after all, so much of the workforce is becoming automated, the single greatest skill that we as human adults offer is our interaction with others. Other skills like problem solving, time management, team work, empathy, and customer service are all learned at first jobs and form the basis for the vast majority of skills needed across the career spectrum.
Share the exploration
Adolescence is a time to explore your surroundings, challenge boundaries and in turn discover loads of things about yourself. While adolescence was initially a concept borne with the luxury afforded of the industrialised lifestyle, much of the structure of the human brain (which has remained relatively unchanged for many millions of years) requires us to learn through a series of exploration, theory-testing, and neural pathway strengthening. In other words …. trial and error. Helping your young woman explore her options will greatly assist in the learning process and helping to decide on a career pathway – so become familiar with available resources that are able to provide information, guide her in asking questions so that she has a better understanding of career choices, and encourage her to try new things as this is how she will know if she enjoys them or not. If you’re not sure of where to start – ask a professional – we’re here to support you as much as we are your young woman. After all, it’s a really tough gig being a parent to a fantastic and inspired young woman!