Study choice and career of your child
Everyone wants a study choice and career that suits them. How can you as a parent help guide your son or daughter towards the right (study) career? It begins with learning to choose!
Make your own study choice and career!
The possibilities for young adults are endless, but that doesn’t make it easier to make choices. Young adults are sometimes discouraged by statements like: ‘I wish I would have had the opportunities you do’ or ‘Do something with your life; the world is your oyster’. Every parent makes that kind of well-meaning remark sometimes.
But designing your study choice and career isn’t easy. What do you need to do to have control over your study choice and career? By asking simple ‘Open Questions’, you can start helping your son or daughter find a path forward. Remember that the responsibility for the study choice and career always rests with the young adult. As a parent, you also have to learn the art of ‘letting go’.
Study choice and career: what does it take?
A great deal of research has looked at how you can shape your own study choice and career (e.g. research by Frans Meijers and Marinka Kuijpers). In short, it involves learning to answer five key questions about the competences (skills) you should use in making choices about your future:
- Who am I? What can I do?
- What do I want? What drives me?
- What kind of work suits me?
- What do I want to become?
- Who can help me do that?
What do these questions mean in concrete terms and how can you use them to shape your study choice and career? A good study choice is an important step in shaping your own career. Parents and schools do young adults a big favour when they talk about their career and the things they can already do.
1: Who am I? What can I do?
What should young adults learn about themselves? They must learn to answer the following: ‘I know what I am good and less good at. I can describe my qualities and talents. I’ve already learned that I can do this well: ….’ These are not easy questions to answer. Don’t fill in what you think your son or daughter can do well, but ask them to list their qualities. ‘What went well, at school and outside of school?’ ‘What can others learn from you?’ ‘What do you receive compliments about?’ Write this down together too. You must reflect on your qualities when making every important choice. To shape your career, you must know WHAT you are going to develop within yourself.
2: What do I want? What drives me?
Think about the following when answering these questions: ‘What am I interested in?’ “What is truly important to me?’ ‘What would I really go all-out to do?’ ‘What touches me?’ As a parent, you can ask about the situations in which things are interesting: at school or also beyond the classroom? You can also try to figure out what makes a certain experience so interesting. ‘Why are you interested in a certain television programme?’ ‘Why is it important for you to do this or that?’ Don’t bombard your son or daughter with questions, but choose your moment and come back for the answers later. When shaping your career, it is important that you know WHY something is important to you.
3: What kind of work suits me?
That is a difficult question for a teenager to answer. However, you can derive a lot of insight from talking about which activities are interesting during school assignments, or the things they like to do outside of school. Does your son or daughter have a part-time job? Ask whether they think their qualities suit that job, and which qualities those are. Does your teenager have a ‘dream job’ in mind? Then ask these questions about that dream job: ‘Why do you think this dream job suits you?’ Would you recommend your dream job to someone else? Why or why not?’ You can probably think of 100 more questions to ask. By taking small steps, your son or daughter will gain more insight into the career of their dreams. When shaping your career, it is important that you know IN WHAT DIRECTION you want to grow.
4: What do I want to become?
‘What are your ambitions?’ ‘Do you know what you want to achieve in the short or long term?’ ‘What is needed to achieve these goals?’ ‘What steps do you need to take to shape the future?’ ‘How and where do you do that?’ ‘What are you going to practice, at and outside school?’ ‘How will you prove to yourself that your ideal future really suits you?’ Don’t link these questions to a profession; many young people know very few professions. Instead, mainly link these questions to activities or themes that your teenager takes an interest in. No one can predict which professions will be needed in the future. HOW do I take charge of my career?
5: Who can help me do that?
Networks can help you. Important questions: ‘Who do you need to achieve your goals?’ ‘Who do you already know?’ ‘How can you get to know the other people you need to know?’ Which networks is your son or daughter part of? And which networks are you part of?
Student counsellors and parents’ councils are increasingly active in organising parent evenings and career evenings to bring together study choosers with parents/professionals. Facebook/social media can also really help with this. You and your teenager know more people than you think. The key question is related to this skill: WHO can help me?
At what age?
At what age should you begin looking at career competences? You can ask a student starting secondary school: Who are you? What do you want? and so forth… It’s unlikely that most young pupils can answer those questions, but paying attention to qualities together, to what motivates them and what they want from their lives, to what they really find interesting: that you can do at any age. Parents can teach their children to ‘take a good look in the mirror’, and that is useful in every phase of your life. Self-knowledge is the best foundation for a fine career, and a good study choice is the key.
If your son or daughter is following a university preparatory course at secondary school, you may automatically assume that he or she will immediately go on to university. But that is not always the best path. Some young adults need a lot more time to answer the five essential choice questions. Some of them choose to work one or more years before they continue their studies. Is your child choosing to take one or more gap years? Then it is important to keep the focus on studying/going to university. Life-long learning is extremely important.