When to have conversations with your children about career paths

Written by: Success NQ | April 1, 2019

Guiding your children towards a career path begins long before they settle into Year 12, and even before subject selections intensify at the end of Year 9. What conversations do you need to have with your child and when? We offer our tips.

Primary school
This is the time we teach children how to learn, and inspire a lifelong love for learning. That every problem has a solution. That things can change and we need to adapt. There is much hype in the world surrounding the changing workforce and the jobs of the future. What you need to know for your primary school-aged child is that there’s a chance the job they will end up pursuing hasn’t yet been invented, or if it has you may not know a whole lot about it. 

What you need to prepare them for, then, is a career that can’t be replaced by machines, automation or AI (artificial intelligence). That means the skills they need to develop as young students are their social and emotional skills, an enjoyment of school/learning, as well as good study skills. In primary school ‘study skills’ will mostly be organisational skills, time management, homework management, completion and editing and assignment preparation. It will also be helping your child develop accountability for their own learning.

This is also the time to feed their curiosities, celebrate their strengths and expose them to many careers, not only your own. Do they love science? Take them to exhibitions outside of school, or enquire about a tour/open day at JCU’s School of Science and Engineering. Do they enjoy computers? Book them into a coding course on the school holidays. Is it music that opens their minds? Invest in some lessons. 

Secondary School
High school is when subject selection comes into play and the pressure to choose a career path increases. Year 7 and 8 are often when the student will explore their subjects more thoroughly and get a feel for what they enjoy and what they are naturally good at (these aren’t always the same!). Year 9 and 10 they narrow their focus with subject selections which pave the way into senior subject selections and then of course tertiary studies.

As with anything in life, making decisions when unprepared can generate anxiety. As they progress through Year 8, make a point to talk with them about which subjects they enjoy, which they feel they are good at and which careers they may want to learn more about. Help them explore the careers they are interested in – research online, look into your local university and what they offer, consider Open Day tours – and in doing so you will be able to broaden their focus by exposing them to careers they (and you) may not have realised existed, and then narrow their focus to their preferences. Once you have a few options, look into which subjects their preferences require for entry.

If, as an example, your high school-aged child is considering a career in Engineering (or simply doesn’t want to rule it out) know that passing the highest-level maths is better than excelling at a lower-level maths class. This may mean you need to get them tutorial support to help them until they find their feet with the subject. (The first months of Year 11 are often the most difficult for students, and can result in subject changes that impact future career options.) Overcoming obstacles and achieving understanding is a great learning experience to prepare them for university and life as an independent adult.


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