"What do I want to do with my life?"
For generations, parents of high school and college students have struggled to help their children ponder and answer that million-dollar question. With the school year well under way and New Year's resolution season fast approaching, here are some tips for parents and students taking stock of their future opportunities.
First, don't wait until senior year to begin considering how you can help guide your high schooler into a gratifying, profitable career. High school students need to consider the question early because it will help determine where they should apply for college. Having an idea of their career interests also will help decide what scholarships to apply for and what grade point average they will need to snag the attention of college recruiters.
College students must delve deep into their souls to decide the direction of their life; how they want to enter the work world and make a positive contribution to society and become productive citizens. After all, if Mom and Dad are expected to fork over thousands of dollars in tuition, room and board, they are expecting a degree in something at the end of a four-year program.
These are major decisions that teens and young adults face during this pivotal time in their lives. As a parent, how do you help them tackle this issue? Dr. Charles Mlynarczyk, campus dean of the College of Education at Argosy University, Sarasota campus, offers some advice.
Test drive a career
Hands-on experience not only helps students learn if they will like a career, it can provide them with marketable skills later if they do decide to enter a certain field. There are several ways to "test drive" a career.
Some schools provide testing to help students identify areas of interest and demonstrated skill for a career, vocation or trade. Another option is to research internship opportunities in a profession of interest. Internships provide valuable opportunities for hands-on experience in a field and interaction with practicing professionals.
High school and college students can make arrangements to shadow someone in the career of interest. This also provides one-on-one interaction and personal experience that can be helpful in selecting a career. Some schools have career days when executives from a variety of fields are invited to a school for "show and tell" and to chat with students about their careers and opportunities for advancement.
"Students must find out what the real job is like, what an average day is like and what the real tasks in a job are. It is OK not to know what area they want to pursue. That's why I encourage students to take a variety of classes in areas unfamiliar to them,"Mlynarczyk said.
Keep options open ,
Students should not rush through the process of selecting a career and should understand that they might change their mind several times, Mlynarczyk said.
"Students need to balance between working on the present and preparing for the future," he said. "It's important to keep their options open because they will not know the condition of the workforce when they are ready to graduate. For example, look at all the new developments with Internet and technology over the last 20 years. Approach the career selection process with an entrepreneurial spirit."
However students arrive at a career choice, it's also important to understand that it is natural to change their minds. Many successful professionals have had to try various fields before deciding what they liked best and what best complemented their natural drive, skill and talent. The ultimate goal is to find a career that sparks enthusiasm, brings out the best qualities and leads to becoming a happy and productive citizen.
- ARA Content
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