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Good parenting practices: How to help your child with career choice

Keep exploring, keep sharing and walk the talk. Career choice is a complex decision. There are many pieces that have to come together in this jigsaw before you see the complete picture.

education Updated: Oct 06, 2016 18:56 IST
Parents should try and play the role of a co-investigator, rather than just agreeing or accepting different careers that a child may be talking about.
Parents should try and play the role of a co-investigator, rather than just agreeing or accepting different careers that a child may be talking about. (Shutterstock )

There are days when I do not envy the parents of teenage kids. In fact, there are many such days.

Somewhere between the ‘God-don’t-embarrass-me-in-front-of-my-friends’ bravado and the petulant ‘you-just-don’t-understand-me’ is a delicate minefield that parents tread on a daily basis.

And if you think they really have their plates full getting through the extremes of cute growing up tales, to dealing with the angst, add to this a large dollop of ‘guiding’ their kids to a secure and happy future career choice.

No envy whatsoever.

However, working with ever-changing, growing minds that are dealing with a thousand things at any point in time, is both a challenge and an adventure. In the many years as a career guidance professional, I have often come across two types of interesting situations that students and their parents often experience.

The first situation is such, wherein students are confused about career choices, simply because these choices change with alarmingly rapid frequency. On the other hand, some students are very clear of their aspirations and “I want to be a CEO” isn’t an alien statement for them.

Read more | The great Indian IIT dream: Why parents want children to be engineers

Both of these are amazing places to be for a 14-15-year-olds. Whether it is because they are constantly inundated with information or because they are making choices without any concrete information, they are at an age where they have the luxury of choice. The whole world is open to them.

Having said that, it is not a comfortable position for the parent of such a child to be in. So what can or should parents do in such a situation?

Here are some simple strategies that have often worked well for parents around me:

1. Provide Exposure

Parents should try and play the role of a co-investigator, rather than just agreeing or accepting different careers that a child may be talking about. If the career interest is from your area, describe and discuss your own experiences with them. If it is not a field you are familiar with, research what it is all about, its scope, specialisations and prospects along with your child. Be an active participant in this career exploration.

2. Connect

Help the child get a real life picture of what this career is all about. Connect them with friends or relatives in that area and mine your networks to see who your child could possibly talk to. You could proactively explore for an interview or internship opportunities.

A better understanding of what professionals in a particular field do on a daily basis, what inspires them, what are the challenges, how they can build their careers will go a very long way in helping a child (and therefore you) figure whether this career will work for them or not.

Read more: Allow students to choose their career, say experts in MP

3. Create mentors

You may be the most encouraging and helpful parents on Earth, but when it comes to exploring and building careers, have someone else become the person your child could also turn to for advice. A friend, a relative or someone senior in the field who has taken a shine to your child can be a trusted advisor and sounding board - for you as well. Their unique insights and another perspective into the career can prove invaluable.

4. Test opinions and rumours

One person’s opinion is not enough. Everybody’s views are filtered through their own nature, biases and experiences. Please take more opinions and perspectives. Look up the internet. Talk to teachers and counsellors in schools. Find alumni who have gone down the same path. Go to experts. Don’t even blindly take my advice. Check out whatever information and advice someone gives you on a career from many other sources. (Hey, that doesn’t mean you can stop reading.)

5. Balance freedom with support

While you are supporting them through all their career explorations, this does not mean you can ‘drive’ this car. Ultimately, you must remember that they are still kids and that they will make their own decisions.

6. Support through anything, but remain involved

Keep exploring, keep sharing and walk the talk. Career choice is a complex decision. There are many pieces that have to come together in this jigsaw before you see the complete picture. Sometimes interest is not enough, you have to work on matching your child’s strengths, personality and goals as well. One lens alone is not enough to judge perfect fit.

7. Accept adjustments, politics, drastic shifts

Yes, weary parents, you must be prepared for lots of effort going down the drain if they lose interest midway. The fact that they lost interest after exploration actually makes this a well-informed decision. And if something is not working for them, isn’t it better that they make the decision now than later, after investing time, effort and money into a wrong decision?

As a parent myself, I can certainly vouch for the fact that knowledge and support is never wasted. Being part of this career exploration journey with your child will be an amazing and satisfying experience - for both you and your child.

A well-informed decision provides clarity of vision and huge motivation to achieve that vision. So off you go! And all the best.

(Kapur is the head of counselling and content at Inomi, a self-discovery based career and college guidance company. Views expressed here are personal.)