By Jamie Leboe

It’s never too early to start thinking about your future – not just your future in general but your future career, too.

Career exploration is a lifelong process. How often are children asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s not that kids need to be thinking about their eventual profession at such an early age, but as parents we want to nurture their interests, talents and skills, which may be helpful in their eventual career search. 

For parents, part of this process is to help our children be aware of the possibilities without putting pressure on them.  I have encouraged my girls since they were young to look at what people “do” everywhere we go. 

We talked about what their teachers did at school, and I asked if that was something that interested them. At the pediatrician, we talked about what doctors and nurses do. I encouraged them to talk to our family members about their jobs. I hoped opening them up to different careers from an early age would give them ideas of things that they might be interested in later. 

Opportunities for kids to discover their interests begin early:

  • Elementary School: Starting as early as kindergarten, parents come into classrooms for a Career Day and talk about their jobs.
  • Middle School:  Ask your kids what they like. If they show an interest in a certain extracurricular activity or hobby, help them learn more about it. Encourage research. We can learn so much online.   If kids are interested in something, you’ll be amazed at how much time they will devote to it.   
  • High School: Internships are a great way to get a real feel for a job and figure out if it may be a good choice for later. If an internship is offered in high school, take it! Encourage your kids to talk to their teachers and guidance counselors about their interests and they can help them to find appropriate opportunities.  It’s not always necessary to wait until college. 
  • Networking:  They say it’s all who you know, so make as many positive connections as you can. You never know when a personal connection that you made even as early as high school will help you find a job later.
  • Social Networking:  Remind your teenagers that once it’s out there, you can’t take it back. Keep an eye on what your kids are putting on their social networking sites. Make sure you continually tell them to keep it appropriate. No party pictures!

The key to getting kids engaged in anything is to try to make it fun.  YouTube has job videos that kids can watch for an introduction to lots of different options. 

Some great websites to look at are careervillage.org, kids.usa.gov and bls.gov/k12/students.htm. They have games that are fun and interactive.  Also, going to work with parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles or anyone able to have a visitor for a day is a great way to explore.  

The most important thing we can do, though, is let our kids be kids. The more they experience and explore, the more likely they will eventually end up choosing a career that they love.

 Jamie Leboe is a career coach and vocational evaluator for the Jewish Community Service Career Center. JCS provides a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland. We offer guidance and support when you are seeking solutions for emotional well-being, aging and caregiving, parenting, job seeking, employers and businesses, achieving financial stability, living with special needs, and preventing risky behaviors. To learn more, please visit our home page or call 410-466-9200.