The child who has a clear view of their career path from an early age is rare.  Most kids don’t know what they want to do when they finish education, so how do they make the right decisions for their future?

Part of the problem is that you don’t know what you don’t know.  As an adult you meet people with jobs you simply didn’t know existed.  As a child there’s a massive world of potential occupations, vocations, professional qualifications and more – much of which you are unaware of.

With access to the internet, todays youngsters have access to more information, but until you go looking for something, it can remain hidden.

While a few children are equally good at humanities and sciences, most show a preference for one or the other and this usually dictates the subject choices they make when it comes to picking their GCSE subjects.  In fact, some schools make it difficult for students who want to study, for example, chemistry AND art as they are often time-tabled in the same slot.

Nature v. nurture

It’s never a good idea to try and persuade your offspring to live out your own career fantasies.  But children who have a parent who is always tinkering with electronics or one who does a lot of creative writing, often show a leaning towards the subjects that they’re immersed in at home.

Small children often try to emulate their parents, whether that’s fixing a gadget or getting involved in baking.  Sitting with Daddy when he’s writing often results in a demand “I want to write too”.  Seeing Mummy putting together a PowerPoint presentation looks like fun too!

However, some children will be influenced in their choice of career by an external experience.  It might be seeing paramedics attending a school-friend who has had an accident, or watching a film or documentary about banking or lawyers.

Some children seem to have an instinct about what they want to do in the world after education too.

So where does this leave you as a parent?

  • Don’t discourage them, whether it’s the four-year-old fireman, the ten-year-old ballet dancer or the thirteen-year-old blogger. Never tell them ‘you can’t’.  Not so long ago people with disabilities would have been told that competing in sport was unrealistic – and now Paralympians have become national heroes!
  • Get them to find out more about the career – appropriate to their age, of course. Share their journey of discovery and ask them to think about what that will mean they need to develop in skills and knowledge, short-term and longer-term.
  • Get them to talk to their careers teacher for more information too.
  • As they get older, maybe see if you know anyone who does the job they are interested in and arrange for them to talk with your child.

Be your child’s cheerleader.  Encourage, be positive, reassure them when they experience the occasional setback and celebrate their successes.