Our economy is changing. And with it, the traditional career paths are also evolving. Long-term employment stability is not always available or even wanted.
And how many children know what career path they want to follow before they have taken their GCSEs? Indeed, how many leave education – even after completing a university degree – and still don’t know what they want to be when they ‘grow up’?
As a parent, you want what’s best for your children but the knowledge and experience that you have gained over the decades may not be as relevant as it once was.
So how can you help your children make informed decisions about a career path? Here are some suggestions that may help bridge the generation gap.
One of the most important things that you can do is listen. Your idea of a suitable career may not be of any interest to your children. If you don’t listen to what interests them, you won’t be able to offer relevant advice.
As well as understanding which subjects they enjoy at school, it is important to pay attention to their extra-curricular pastimes and interests.
Obviously, if they have a love of mathematics which is evidenced in good grades in relevant exams, and they have expressed a desire to be a statistician when they grow up, you know how to advise them and can research available career options.
Because there may be job opportunities that you are not aware of (5 years ago, who would have thought that being an online ‘influencer’ could be a viable career?), it is essential that you are open to ideas and suggestions from your children.
Remember that this is not about what you think they should do. A career path should be influenced by what your children enjoy and their abilities and skills.
Whilst it’s an excellent idea to talk about your own experiences, you must put them into perspective for a different generation: job stability and a profession are not always the objective.
According to research commissioned by the DfE:
Parents lacked knowledge about key careers websites and their approach to information seeking was ad-hoc and often reliant on the results of internet searches. Most parents of primary aged and younger secondary children thought accessing information online was unnecessary. Others had concerns about being able to source age-appropriate information, and overwhelming younger children with information.
Whilst your children may already have some sources of information, it can be really helpful if you offer them guidance and advice on their potential career choice.
Talk to the careers adviser at their school, look for potential job opportunities for students who excel in different subjects (for example, this series of articles on potential career paths), discuss strengths, weaknesses, interests and abilities with your children, and be encouraging and supportive.
Help your children make a decision by discussion your own years in the workplace. Talk about interviews, writing CVs, responsibilities of different job roles, how career progression works, and even less obvious topics such as how to behave in a working environment and communicate effectively with managers and colleagues.
Some online job listings websites also offer advice on what is needed to successfully apply for certain roles, how much they should expect to earn and what they responsibilities are likely to be.
Searching these listings websites can also help understand the relative strength of a particular job market – if there are few listings for a particular role, this can mean that there are few opportunities available and it might be better to try to find a different but related role with greater potential.
The National Careers Service has more information about the jobs market and career opportunities in different sectors.
Offer help, advice and guidance but don’t be proscriptive or restrictive. And remember that it’s not your choice of career for your children that you are discussing, it’s theirs.