How many times do you hear your child say, “Mom you just don’t get it!” Well actually you do and they don’t “get it”. Here’s why there’s a bridge between understanding each other.
How can you coach children to explore their strengths, follow their passions and be happy in their career? We explore ways to open that can of worms instead of encouraging a trait-and-factor or pegs-into-holes approach to decision-making in relation to career choices.
Clarity is power; before clarity there is often a mess. Initial confusion is good as it ensures that options have been considered when addressing career decisions.
First, ask your children how they have chosen their courses and career options to date. Have they been influenced by friends, teachers and significant others? Focus on their feelings around these good and bad influences.
Are there any decisions that they regret? Can they be changed or re-established? What did that feel like? How can they be avoided or dealt with?
Significant others and critical incidents — such as work shadowing or work experience — presentations from professionals and even films, can assist with career choices.
Next, ask powerful, ‘big’ questions leaving location, finances, climate and studies aside. What do they really want to do with their lives? Explore areas that are crazy, rare or not even identified as a profession yet. Get them to use their true feelings and imagination, to be bold and even bonkers!
Try to connect with them by staying non-judgemental throughout. Explore their rationale for these ‘out of the box’ options.
Pick up on the body language and the words they use when describing what’s good about these careers. Make them aware of this by saying things like: “I see that you are passionate about this.”
You may also notice their values surfacing as they express the need for freedom, security or saving the planet. It’s a great tool for learning more about your child.
Encourage your children to see where they are now, what strengths and development areas they need to consider, and what plans they can make to achieve their goals. Think in terms of skills, knowledge and behaviours or attitude.
Action may include only further research around qualifications and experience required for different professions initially. Discuss obstacles that may stand in their way and let them think of solutions. This may involve concepts such as ‘glass ceilings’, which are things hindering progression to the top in a particular field, or ‘sticky floors’ where even getting a foot on the ladder is a challenge.
Such discussions are important since gender, cultural and other nuances need to be grappled with. They can step off that sticky floor by, for example, developing metacognitive skills or tools and capacities when things get tough.
Ensure that your child moves forward one way or another by letting them suggest their next course of action. This also means that accountability, in terms of deadlines or outcome, is established. These can be medium- and long-term. However, some quick, short-term targets ensure that the momentum continues.
Another great skill for life is prioritising targets since we all tend to complete the tasks we like first and leave the horrors for later. Persuade children to identify people and other resources that can help them with their action.
Remember to check in on them; give them praise and encouragement. If progress is not made, ask them about commitment and their real desire for achievement. Get curious.
This type of career coaching with your child will increase resilience and independent choice making in a safe environment. It provides strategies to be proactive around setbacks as opposed to putting out fires. That can save you time, money and stress.
Leave final decisions about universities and particular courses until depth and breadth, values and passions have been discovered. The soft skills mentioned in this article are the new hard skills required by your children for lifelong career management.
Dr Clare Beckett-McInroy is an organisational and executive coach, as well as a trainer and founder of Biznet and Beckett-McInroy Consultancy.