Many people use the terms work, job, career, and vocation interchangeably. While it’s true that each involves working and a wage, having a career and vocation means more than just a paycheck. They describe a type of work where your passion, purpose, skills, and the marketplace collide. In the words of theologian Frederick Buechner, “Your vocation in life is where your greatest joy meets the world’s greatest need.”
While some students seem destined for a particular vocation at an early age, it is common for today’s students to near high school graduation without a plan. Parents can encourage informed early-career-direction decisions. It starts with helping teens identify who God made them be, then supporting them as they explore occupations, and finally, helping them to develop goals and create an action plan. By partnering with and encouraging them in this important decision, they can then graduate from high school with a vision for their future.
Help an Undecided Student Build Identity
Nothing is more foundational than being rooted in Christ. Assisting teens in forging strong, positive identities is one way to help them form convictions based on truth, and then stand firm in them regardless of what everyone else does. Google “Who I am in Christ.” Print and review as a family. Emphasize that work is part of God’s plan and that He designed them for a purpose.
Be generous with your praise, affirming skills and natural abilities you have observed.
Ask questions that help identify likes and dislikes and what is important: What kinds of interactions energize you or drain you? Do you like to work with facts and data, or do you prefer people-oriented activities? Do your decisions tend to be objective and logic-based, or are your decisions based on how they may impact others? Do you like to talk out your ideas, or do you prefer time alone to make decisions?
Encourage busy teens to enjoy downtime, which can strengthen their creativity and problem-solving skills. Schedule time to pursue hobbies and to invest in electives, sports, and other team activities that build skills and reveal interests.
Explore Career Options
A better motto than “You can be anything you want to be” is “Be all you can be!”
Researching careers online will help teens better understand occupational profiles that match their interests and personalities. Set a goal for how many careers to research. Information should include primary duties, the education or skills needed for working in that field, work environment, and median wage. Discuss the findings. Check out CareerOneStop.org.
Utilizing a career assessment tool at about the age of 16 may further identify vocations that match God-given interests. Informal assessments are readily available on the web. These are self-interpreted and can lack reliability so are best used to generate discussion. Fee-based or formal assessments are more comprehensive and statistically validated. A trained career counselor can interpret the results to identify best-fit careers and college options. Look for a comprehensive assessment that covers the four components of vocational design: personality, interests, skills and abilities, and values. Check out CareerDirect.org.
Good career planning includes building curiosity and excitement toward participating in the marketplace. Use your networks to make introductions to people in occupations that interest them and match their vocational design. Thinking about a career sector rather than a specific occupation will generate a bigger list of options that match their interests. Encourage them to prepare a list of questions by Googling “informational interview.” Practice interview skills to improve their confidence level.
Take advantage of the flexible schedule of homeschooling. Facilitate opportunities to learn outside of the classroom through part-time work, volunteering, and job shadowing. This will help confirm interests as well as build a resume with skills that employer value.
Set Goals and Take Action
By integrating the gathered information and identifying the education, training, and skills needed for the career sectors, plans and goals can be determined. Don’t worry about choosing one specific occupation at this stage. Goals can be categorized into one of these five pathways: four-year STEM-related college degree; four-year liberal arts college degree; two-year vocational degree or certificate; apprenticeship training, military, or workforce; and gap year or travel.
Teens who have a healthy and productive level of guidance and support from their parents have a much better chance of making good college and career choices. Here are some questions to think about: Which post-secondary institutions offer the programs needed? What is the cost for completion? How will it be funded? Can affordable or free college credits be earned in high school? What are the prerequisites or admission requirements? What courses should be completed during high school? Besides education, what experiences or skills would be valued? Together, you can develop a plan for high school, aligning them to support post-graduation goals.
Many students are more motivated in their studies when they have a defined purpose and have set personal goals. Those who write down their goals are 50% more likely to achieve them. Work to break down their goals into specific, manageable tasks with timelines for completion. Change is constant, so capitalize on preparations for success after high school, no matter what they choose to pursue.
©2019 Cheri Frame
Cheri Frame is a homeschool parent of three graduates, a certified Career Direct® Consultant, and author of Credits Before College: A Comprehensive High School to Graduation Guide. She specializes in advising parents and students on how to earn affordable college credits in high school, choose a career, and graduate college debt free. Cheri and her husband live in suburban Minneapolis.