When you were a kid and someone asked you, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The answer was always right on the tip of your tongue. Whether it was a cowboy, an actress, a doctor, or a lawyer, you were ready to enthusiastically pursue whatever wild dream you had at the moment.
Now that you are in high school with graduation approaching, “when you grow up” is getting ever closer and the answer to that question may be more difficult. Suddenly, the career you choose could have a real-world impact on the classes you take, the extra-curricular activities you’re involved in, and your decision about what to do when you graduate.
“Too little time is really invested in making informed college major and career decisions,” says Peg Hendershot, a career counselor at Career Vision in Glen Ellyn, Ill. “It is a process without a clear deadline and gets overlooked by to-do lists and daily activities. [Teens should be conversing] about what talents they want to develop to use as their contribution in the workplace and for an industry … And students need to learn to be proactive in setting their goals.”
While it’s all right to pursue several interests and still be undecided on your career path at a young age, having some idea of work you are interested in can help set yourself up for success.
“We encourage participation in clubs, a variety of curriculum and a creative look at how to gain exposure and experience during vacation or summer breaks,” Hendershot says. “High school is a great time for parents to help students visit different work settings or speak with friends who work in fields that have some appeal.”
One trend that is becoming increasingly common among teens is visits to career counselors. Career counselors are experts who help you figure out both what you are good at and what your interests are in order to help you define your professional path. Though career counselors are traditionally huge resources for students getting ready to graduate college or professionals looking for a change of career, MSNBC recently reported that, in recent years, these experts are seeing more visits from teens.
“Today’s educators are expected to do more and more with fewer resources, so families who want to give their student more personalized support invest in things like tutors, music and sport lessons, or private teams and camps and career counselors,” Hendershot says. “Great career counselors are current on the labor market and what types of talents are needed to be used regularly in different jobs, and they have a look at the long-view preparation and opportunity evaluation skills for entering the workforce and career management.”
At Career Vision, Hendershot’s organization, parents and teens work together to figure out a teen’s strengths and weakness and talk about how this could relate to a career. At the same time, Hendershot says, they recognize that a teen doesn’t need to make a definitive career selection, but can choose a wide variety of options and explore them more through extra-curricular activities, job shadowing, and informational interviews.
Students who are interested in thinking about their futures but want to avoid the cost of a career counselor or the possible pressure of meeting with a live person have a great alternative in self-exploration books. Career or self-development books, once more common among adults, are now booming for teens as well. These books give teens a chance to think about their ambitions and goal-setting on their own time, while offering insights similar to those of a counselor.
Whether you’ve had the same “when I grow up” dream since childhood, or you feel your interests pulling you in a few different ways, taking some time to think about your interests and passions is a great way to learn more about yourself and think about your future.