After previously writing about university as preparation for the real world, and the importance of self-awareness for job seekers, I thought it might be a good idea to focus on how exactly young people can learn what jobs exist, and what they actually entail. Given the sheer number of possibilities out there, it would be impossible to learn about every single one; still, with a sense of their interests and skills, any teenager can start to explore options that might be a good fit.
The reason I suggest starting when your child is a teenager, is that many people select jobs and careers while only having a vague sense of what they actually involve. This can lead to a poor fit, which in turn can lead to frequently switching jobs and careers and never really getting established in anything. Exploring possibilities earlier on can help to clarify what the teen is really interested in, and help them to follow a more connected path.
So how can teenagers begin to explore their career possibilities? There are three main ways I would suggest:
- Informational interviews
- Job shadowing
Though I could write a great deal here about the ins and outs of each method, I think I might save that for future posts. For now, I want to point out the benefits of using any or all of these methods to explore career options.
- Any of these methods provides the young person with a healthy dose of reality. Too many of us choose our professions without ever really knowing exactly what the ins and outs of the profession are. Job shadowing allows the shadower to see up close what a person does every day in their job. The other two methods I’ve mentioned provide a similar insider’s view of a particular job, and can be very helpful in determining whether perception lives up to reality when it comes to a given job.
- Once a teenager has an idea of his or her particular skills, interests, and talents, the three exploration methods can help them to see if a particular job is in line with those qualities. It would certainly be helpful to discover beforehand if a job plays to the teen’s strengths, or if it involves a high proportion of skills or abilities that they lack or have no desire to develop.
- Exploring the realities of different jobs can help a young person begin to grasp the idea of career paths. This means seeing how different jobs might be related, and how one can move between different jobs that use similar skill sets, so as not to have to start at square one each time they decide to make a job change. Again, talking to actual people who do various jobs can be immensely helpful in this regard.
- One benefit that might not be immediately evident, is the fact that valuable contacts and mentors can be acquired from engaging in informational interviews, job shadowing or volunteering. Often, relationships are formed that can be very helpful when one is starting in their own career. It can be very useful to have people to turn to to ask for advice when faced with career dilemmas or important decisions. We all need help from time to time, after all. Forming these contacts early on can only be beneficial.
As you can see, there are many ways to start learning about the world of jobs, and each can help a young person in a myriad of ways. The key is starting early, and being open to learning and enjoying the process.