Before you pick a college, before you pick a major, before you even think about college – your teen has to make sure their aspiration matches reality. Yes, I know, bloggers shouldn’t give homework assignments, but trust me when I say this is worth it.
What kind of ideas helped form your teen’s occupational or college major aspirations? Well, if they are normal teens, those ideas probably came from:
Unfortunately, all of those resources will fall short. Many “resources” are actually sales or marketing propaganda. For instance, a college website is the WORST place you could ever go for advice about a career! A college has one goal: enrollment.
Television and books often paint an unrealistic view of the occupation, and while friends, teachers, and family probably have your teen’s best interests at heart- if they don’t have actual work experience in the field, it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to provide solid occupational advice because their impressions are also molded by television, books, and social media.
While every source will naturally have some kind of bias, I’m sure that this 2-prong approach will get you pointed in the very best direction without the bias, propaganda, or emotion.
- US Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook – If you’ve read Homeschooling for College Credit or follow this blog, you may have already guessed this one! It’s the unparalleled best resource for occupational research!! The Occupational Outlook Handbook is actually an online tool that allows you to find the education required, projected growth for the industry, and expected salary. It’s very easy to use and worth bookmarking.
- After you’ve got the basics, now your teen has to TALK to someone working in the field. You can reach out through social media or email, but they need to buy this person a cup of coffee and have a real conversation in person. Someone who works in an industry will have tremendous insight into the changes that have occurred in the way people are educated, trained, and promoted. If you connect with someone sincere, they’ll have the ability to tell you the mistakes or errors new graduates make, and they might even have recommendations for getting the best training.
The best way to find someone to TALK to is through a friend of a friend of a friend. Most of know someone who knows someone from church, work, a club, the neighborhood, or community that would love to talk with your teen. Don’t be shy. If they say “no” ask them if they can recommend someone.
Your teen should prepare a few educated questions. Use the Occupational Outlook Handbook if they need help. In addition to your teen’s questions, be sure they add these to their list:
- How did you get your training/education in this field?
- If you were starting out in the field today, how would you get your education?
- If you could change something about your training/education, what would it be?
- Are you aware of any programs or schools that are doing a good job preparing graduates for this career? Any that are falling short?
- What mistakes do you think students make entering this career field?
- What is a realistic entry-level position I should expect after I graduate?
- How long did it take you before you felt confident in this career?
- What are some of the tasks/skils being phased out in this career?
- What are some of the new emerging skills you see in this career?
- What advice would you give me before I choose this career?
Shhh…… if your teen is too young to drive themselves, you will probably accompany them to the meeting, but try to let them do 99% of the talking.
Though this might feel scary or seem unnecessary, I promise it will be one of the best experiences your student can do for their future. At the very least, it should be a prerequisite for every student considering college, apprenticeship, military, or vocational school.
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