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Career and Your Teen: Changing the Conversation

If you’ve been going around in circles or hitting a dead end with your teenager when it comes to the conversation about the importance of getting good grades in high school in order to expand future career options, I’m going to suggest you try a new approach. To a teen, 25 seems really old and they often have difficulty making the connection between how their efforts in school now can enhance their career opportunities later. In their minds, they have their whole life ahead of them (what does Grade 10 math have to do with anything?). Rather than nagging, judging, or scolding your teen, change the conversation. Here’s how. 

It’s really important to start causal dialogue by asking your teen questions about what drives them, what lights them up, and then listen deeply to what information they share with you. It could be about their favorite YouTuber or Instagrammer, their favorite show, movie, book, or athlete. I promise, casual dialogue with your teen can provide a wealth of information, and don’t worry too much that it’s indulging your teen’s fantasy thinking. When they start talking about being a famous Internet star or pro athlete, realize they’re also conveying the key skills, interests, personality traits, and values important to them.

Help them make the connection between the skills and knowledge they want to build and the courses they are taking now in high school (even if it is a course they don’t particularly like). For example, if their favorite YouTuber is Good Mythical Morning and their least favorite class is math, ask them how Rhett and Link might use math as part of their YouTube success? Rhett and Link would have to be using math to figure out their profits through ad revenue generated subtracting costs to produce their videos. Math will be important in determining how many videos to make every year in order to be profitable, when they have enough money to hire a new person, and how much to pay themselves. Rhett and Link need to use math daily in order to run a successful business.

Listen to your teen with all of your senses. Listen not only to what they are saying, listen for changes in the tone and volume of their voice. Observe what they are talking about when they get animated, when their body language changes, when their eyes light up; these are all indicators of things that energize and engage them.

As you listen, explore with your teen what skills are involved in some of these career pursuits (either their own skills or the skills of those they admire). Then talk about what skills they have that may be in common with those they admire. Ask them about things in their life they are proud of and reflect back to them any unique skills and interests you hear in them. Then use what you find out to help them find opportunities to build their skills and experience for a particular career. Your teen can gain skills and experience through community engagement, volunteer opportunities, sports, and, yes, even through school.

Once you have a greater sense of the type of skills and interests your teen enjoys using most, brainstorm possible career paths with them. Then research together to find different pathways to careers that get them excited. Connect those careers and pathways with their current high school courses.

This is about leaving as many doors open as possible, so they will have more career choices later on in life. And in order to do that, it means doing the best they can at each stage of their education.

Margo is a trained Lifepath facilitator and owner of Open to Possibilities. She offers private and group coaching sessions with teens and young adults to help them reach their full potential. She’s also a mom of two teen boys. Find out more about her next workshop at opentopossibilities.ca

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