I am a parent of two curious children, an 8-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl. They have plenty of interests. The challenge is translating something like Minecraft into what to study at college and a career.
We’re fortunate to have time on our side. But many of my friends and family members have children in the later years of middle school and high school. That’s the time to use hobbies, academics, or a little of both to explore career possibilities.
Do kids need a career path before college? Absolutely not.
That begs the question: Do kids need a career path before college? Absolutely not.
It’s not uncommon for students to change their plans once they settle into college. These are still formative years — especially for young adults. They’re surrounded by new people and ideas and greater opportunity.
What you can do before college is help your child make the connection between what they enjoy doing and what they can do for a living. It can be a fun process to share. Then you can take what you learn and use it when it’s time to look at schools.
Ask the easy questions
It might sound obvious, but asking, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a good way to start. When I ask my 11-year-old that question, she says interior designer. Makes sense — she loves to draw, paint, and craft. So, who knows, someday she may be an interior designer or design the house itself. In the meantime, she’s having a blast decorating spaces in our home.
While it’s not Minecraft or Roblox, the information is helpful.
See what’s out there
While Google gives you thousands of results for any one search term, it’s important to find legitimate resources on careers.
You can always check out a book first. I recommend Careers: The Graphic Guide to Planning Your Future. This book lays out over 400 careers vetted by industry professionals. It’s written for grades 8-12 and covers accounting to zoology. It’s an excellent place to start.
If your child doesn’t feel like flipping through a paperback, there’s the web, of course. The U.S. Department of Labor operates careeronestop.org. While it’s not Minecraft or Roblox, the information is helpful. Families can review hundreds of careers and even see job outlooks in any city, state, or zip code.
Finally, some states and school districts use Career Technical Education (CTE) as early as middle school. Students choose a concentration that fits their career interests — like broadcast journalism or finance — shaping what they study in high school.
When your student reaches high school, adjust how you ask the career question. “What impact do you want to have in the world?” is a question that may resonate more with Gen Z.
Today’s tweens and teens are smart, intuitive, and bold. They care deeply about everything going on in the world. Using a wider lens to explore careers might lead to an “aha” moment — for both of you.