You’ve probably seen it a dozen times: a professional five, ten, maybe even twenty years into their career, who absolutely hates their job. Not just the standard annoyed-about-Monday-morning-meetings frustrations, but a deep discontentment about everything they’ve worked on.
Maybe it's a coworker or a friend who has experienced this. Maybe you’ve experienced this yourself. But how can you help your high school or college student avoid hating their own career?
Students are faced with so many choices that will impact the rest of their lives, and their career path may be one of the most important. We’re going to dive into why it’s so important for your student to choose a career they love, and show you how to help them make the choice that’s right for them.
In high school and college, students might be tempted to choose a career based on paycheck, prestige, or what their peers are doing. But these reasons too often lead to job dissatisfaction stemming from a lack of purpose or a feeling of stagnation because there’s no room to grow.
When people are unhappy at their jobs, they can be more susceptible to physical and mental illness, substance abuse, relationship problems and more. And when people are satisfied with their jobs, it’s usually because it brings a sense of meaning and connection to their lives.
Our goal is to help students, with the guidance of their parents, figure out what career will bring that sense of purpose, meaning, and connection. Here’s how we do that.
It’s difficult to find the right career just by taking a simple career aptitude test. Those kinds of tests often spit out a list of possible careers based on broad assumptions and without any thought as to why or how these careers might be a good fit. They often ask questions about values and talents that your student may or may not know the answers to yet.
That’s why taking a step back to focus on self-reflection is a better approach. Students need to first discover what they care about, what they’re good at, and how they work best. Only when they truly understand themselves can they choose a career that will be the right fit long-term. It’s teaching them how to fish rather than just handing them a fish.
To help your student understand themselves, you’ll want to share how you understand them. Hearing about themselves from someone who knows and loves them can help jumpstart their self-reflection. Let’s look a little closer at some components of helping your student find a career they’ll love.
You’ve taught your student many things by example, and self-reflection is no different. Talk to your student about your own career. What choices did you make, and why? What do you like and dislike about your work? Do you wish you’d done anything differently?
Self-reflection doesn’t just apply to choosing a career. Curate an atmosphere of self-reflection between you and your student, talking about everything from work and school to relationships, travel, and leisure choices. Thinking critically about your own actions and choices and sharing your thoughts with your students is one of the best ways to instill a strong sense of self-reflection in them.
As you start to encourage your student’s self-reflection in all areas of their life, ask them lots of questions. Often, the most helpful question is to simply ask why they like a certain thing or made a certain choice. It’s important to ask your questions with no judgment or assumptions about their answers. This encourages more open and honest conversations - something that will serve both you and your student well as you help them find a career they’ll love.
You can also jumpstart your student’s self-reflection by sharing your own observations about them. Do this sparingly - the goal is to empower your student to discover themselves, not to tell them what they should be based on what you know. But sometimes, a little observation from a trusted loved one can be the spark of a new idea or realization, or affirm something your student has been wondering about themselves. Pay attention to your student, and don’t be afraid to share with them the patterns that you see.
Working through the Who Am I course is a great way to guide your student through the self-reflection necessary to choose a career they’ll love. But there are a few other things you can do to enhance their experience and help them know themselves more fully.
Finding a career your student loves can help them feel a sense of purpose and meaning throughout their life. To find this, they’ll need to have a deep understanding of themselves - what they care about, what they’re good at, and what motivates them. As their parent, you can help guide them through this journey of self-reflection. Share your own experiences, tell your student what you know and observe about them, and watch them discover who they truly are.
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