by Rachelle Tannenbaum
Research shows that as many as 50% of college students don’t know what career to choose. With a high percentage of undecided students, it makes sense to help kids with their career paths. How can parents assist their children in navigating the confusing terrain of career development?
In this issue Professor Maria A. Turkson will explore this question and provide suggestions for parents. Professor Turkson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at AACC. She is also a psychologist and winner of the National Career Development Association Research Award for her doctoral research on career development. In addition, Dr. Turkson’s research on career development has been presented at the national convention of the American Psychological Association.
If you'd like to learn more about this topic, you may be interested in our noncredit course, "Helping Kids With Career Choices" (FON 333). For more details about this and our other courses, check out our fall brochure.
HELPING KIDS WITH CAREER DEVELOPMENT
Maria A. Turkson, Ph.D.
Before we begin, let’s take a little quiz:
Question #1: Read the following vignette and decide if it is a helpful parent interaction.
Parent: “ Carmen, what do you want to be when you grow up?”Carmen: “I don’t know.” Parent: “You should be a pharmacist – I bet you’d be great at that, plus they make good money.”
Although this parent probably means well, he or she is not being helpful. It is better for parents to be a facilitator of your children’s interests, rather than the expert on what career is best for your child.
Question #2: True or false? There is only one career in the world that is right for your child.
Answer: False. People can be happy and successful in various careers. Therefore, parents and kids shouldn’t worry too much about finding the one and only perfect career. The truth is that many careers overlap in terms of content, and the same person may be interested in seemingly different careers.
Question #3: Parents exert a _______ level of influence on their children’s career development.
The answer to this one is “C” – high. This is why it is so important for parents to become involved in their children’s career development as early as possible.
What is career development?
Career development is a life-long process in which one makes a series of mini-decisions to implement a meaningful life pattern. Choosing a career is NOT a one-time decision. For example, many people mistakenly believe a career is chosen once, at a particular time in life, such as late adolescence or early 20s. However, a person’s interests develop over time, and that’s why career decision making is not one big decision, but rather a process consisting of many, many small decisions.
Career development begins in early childhood. Parents are perhaps the single most important influence on their child’s career development. In fact, research suggests that when parents believe they can influence their children’s academic achievements, their children aspire to higher levels of academic and career achievements.
Many parents think that elementary school is too early to promote career development, but this is not true. A parent’s role during their child’s elementary years is not to force children to make premature decisions, but to avoid closure of future options. The outcome of kids’ early development is the development of self-awareness.
Tips for helping children develop self-awareness and clarify goals:
- Encourage play. There is a strong connection between childhood play activities and later career choices.
- Expose your children to a wide variety of activities. Kids are very curious and enthusiastic, and they need to explore many options before settling down into one career choice.
- Have your child write a paper (or poem, song, or play) on “The kind of person I am, want to be, how I’ve changed in the past year.” Using this activity, kids learn to connect their thoughts, actions, and feelings together regarding career development.
- Avoid sex-role stereotyping. Don’t tell your child that engineering is a “boy’s career” or that nursing is only for girls.
- Make sure that your child has opportunities to be challenged and to succeed. This will help him develop a sense of competence and a willingness to persevere in the face of difficulty.
- Remember, all work is valuable regardless of the occupation. Don’t deprecate your own work to motivate your child to something “better.” And be realistic: Don’t push a child with limited ability to pursue competitive academic programs, and don’t pressure an academically talented child to go to work ASAP.
The purpose of parental involvement during the middle school years is to help your child explore and plan.
Children can explore by:
- Job shadowing an acquaintance at work.
- Continuing to learn about various careers.
- Developing meaningful interpersonal relationships to learn more about themselves.
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