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Encouraging Your Teen on Career Choices

Help Your Teen With Future Career Ideas That Are Compatible With Personality

When a 4-year-old is asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" the answer can be somewhat amusing. It is usually based on how a young child sees the world through discovering eyes. My young son said to me last week, "When I grow up, I want to work at Discovery Zone and pass out the laser guns in the Godzilla laser tag room." A true example of the world in the eyes of a child who has yet to experience kindergarten.

Tomorrow, his career quest will be different as he discovers something new in the world around him (although Discovery Zone and Godzilla will always have a special place in his heart).

But by the time they become teenagers, kids have experienced enough of the world around them to realize what appeals to them and what doesn't. Through role models, the adults in their lives and even television and movies, today's teens do not need to search too far beyond their boundaries for future career ideas compatible with their personalities, interests and abilities.

The Hand That Leads

As parents, we can enlighten our teens about the world outside of textbooks, CDs, trips to the mall and gym class. The first step is hearing your teen say something such as, "I want to go to medical school." That's your cue to encourage your teen to seek out the reality of the profession he wants to pursue.

My teenage daughter announced last year that she would like a career in the medical field. As of today, she still has that desire. It's safe to assume this may be something she is serious about (or perhaps she has just seen too many episodes of "Trauma: Life in the E.R."). But considering that her favorite singer changes with the tides, her year-long interest in the medical profession is an eye-opener.

Taking my own advice, I encouraged her to look into the possibility of doing volunteer work at a local hospital. After speaking to a volunteer representative, my daughter informed me that at the age of 13, she is too young to be part of the volunteer team and will have to wait until after her next birthday. The volunteer positions available to 14- and 15-year-olds will not give her much direct contact with patients, but the positions will still put her in a medical environment. I already put a note on our calendar to remind her to make that call again the day after she turns 14 -- if the interest is still there.

Occupational Training Programs

Many school districts offer occupational programs for high school students. These wonderful programs allow on-the-job training in exchange for high school class credits. Select employers in the community open their doors to students ready to train for the transition into the work force. There is no monetary compensation for the students, but the training provides a benefit that cannot be taught in a classroom: experience. Interested students are placed with employers who offer positions in environments consistent with the student's future employment goals.

Sandra Maranon is a director of human resources for a large luxury hotel in Long Beach, Calif. She works closely with the local school district in placing students into positions at her place of employment. This has proven to be quite beneficial for both the employer and students. The employer gains free manpower; the student gleans valuable work experience that looks great on a resume.

Maranon couldn't be happier about the success of the program.

"Many of the students who enter our doors have secured permanent employment with us after their term in the program ends," Maranon says. "An employment interview doesn't necessarily prove to me that an applicant has the work ethics I'm looking for. However, watching a proficient student in action does."

A Path Without Footsteps

David Malone's 16-year-old son, Malcom, has spent the past five years talking about joining the county's sheriff department when he reaches the minimum age requirement. Malone is proud of the fact that his son has a desire to protect the community and the people in it, and he sought out a way to set his son on the path to his dream job.

There are no members of the Malone family in law enforcement, nor are there any family friends in the field to act as a mentor to Malcom. So when Malone heard about an explorer scout program associated with the local sheriff's department, Malcom decided to join. The volunteer program provided insight into the career that Malcom thought he might want to pursue, and it confirmed his thoughts. He is now counting down the days until he can be sworn in as a law enforcement officer.

Explorer scout volunteers wear a designated uniform. Their duties include conducting traffic and parking control at community events, compiling non-criminal reports, participating in patrol car "ride alongs" and public relations events. Malcom's favorite is the on-duty ride along, and he speaks of this "insider's" glimpse with excitement.

"If I ride along with a deputy who doesn't work with a partner, I get to ride in the front seat." Malcom says.

The Right Path

A parent's role in career guidance is to provide direction and support. With these tools readily available, teenagers can have the confidence to go forward in that direction, taking the first step toward a fulfilling their career dreams in the future.

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