Determining which college degree to pursue in order to jump-start a career path is one of the first important decisions young adults have to make.
College is a huge financial investment. It also takes time and a lot of hard work. When a teen chooses the wrong career path, only to learn two years in they he or she is miserable, it’s another fat investment and a lot more hard work to change careers.
Parents can help to save a lot of pain, money, and hassles by helping their teenagers determine fitting career paths the first time. Here’s a cheat sheet for helping a young adult determine which passion to pursue.
Look for clues.
Everyone has a “happy place,” and teenagers will devote most of their energy where they find excitement, calm, and satisfaction. This may not always translate exactly to a career path. A young adult might want to do nothing but surf Hawaii; but passions can lead to more practical career goals. What is it about surfing that excites a person? Is it the thrill? The challenge? The athletic involvement? The chance to interact with nature?
Once the specific root of the passion is articulated, a person is one step closer to connecting it with a suitable career path and corresponding secondary education.
Maybe a teenager is obsessed with cars. They insisted on coming along for new-vehicle-shopping, and couldn’t wait to check out the new 2018 Ford vehicles. That kind of passion might be a career clue, but what exactly made them excited? Was it the cars themselves? Did they want to try haggling with the dealer? Did they want to do research ahead of time on the most reliable options?
Follow the roots of the passion. Those limbs will often point in the direction of the best path forward.
Consider jobs that offer similar opportunities to favorite hobbies.
Don’t take the clues and run a straight trajectory: An avid surfer does not necessarily make a successful marine biologist.
A thrill-seeker can do very well in the medical field as an EMT, nurse, physician’s assistant or doctor. Athletes might go on to become successful coaches, fitness trainers, motivational speakers, or nutritionists. Nature-lovers can explore futures in animal rehabilitation, veterinary care, the sciences, or even farming.
That teenager who loves haggling with car salesmen may have a bright future as a stocks trader. Natural researchers make great consultants and accountants; while die-hard car buffs should explore an automotive & diesel technology college in NY. Trade school jobs are in high demand, and they’d enjoy their work for the rest of their lives.
Research their talents.
Passion isn’t the only place to look for the right college degree. It’s also wise to research a teenager’s natural talents.
A student who’s proficient in math may do well as a software engineer or statistician. Young folks who love helping other people should look into teaching and social work. And teenagers who are always jotting down notes in their diaries often make great journalists.
It’s worth taking a look at the activities young adults naturally gravitate toward and are inherently good at. These traits are often great predictors of career paths that won’t feel forced.
Pay attention to what brings a person joy.
Besides talent and passion, parents should ask their kids what work they enjoy doing. At the end of the day, a career as a biologist isn’t right just because someone loves plants; it’s right because someone loves research. Is that outdoor enthusiast comfortable curled up for hours at a time with facts and figures? Does he or she thrive under intense pressure and constantly changing situations?
Would they rather have regularity and predictable days, or do work that’s always changing and different?
Career satisfaction tends to come down to day-to-day experiences. If a person can’t stand sitting at a computer all day, a job as a website designer is never going to feel fulfilling. Someone might like the salary range of a dentist; but if he or she doesn’t like working independently or repeating monotonous tasks, this is definitely the wrong career path.
People who prefer the predictable will enjoy working as plumbers, dental assistants, or mechanics. If they’d rather have a change of pace, it’s worth exploring restaurant work, being an emergency room nurse, or working with at-risk teens.
Look into what career options are viable.
Not everyone can afford the schooling to become a psychologist or brain surgeon. Certain career options are certainly limited by how much debt a person is willing to accrue. In these cases, it might make more sense for a person just starting out to begin with accredited online degree programs.
A person may also want to limit options to what is immediately available. Researching the job market and where workers are needed can help someone focus efforts on a vocation that will have fast returns on schooling. These days, librarians are in less demand than they were 20 years ago; while hospitals are desperate for additional nursing staff. New markets have also exploded; like solar installers and video editors. It’s extremely valuable to take the time to look into where these markets are headed, and where the most demand is.
It’s important to have a conversation with young adults to find out what is important to them tuition- and job-wise. Career paths should be angled around these goals, as well.
Make sure they choose career paths that matter to them.
It is essential that teenagers settle on career paths that matter to them and not their parents.
A college degree will dictate jobs and career paths for the rest of our lives. Ending up in the wrong career can make a person miserable—and sick. And while we all have high hopes for our children, it is more important that they settle in careers that bring satisfaction than jobs that carry a lot of money or prestige. For these reasons, always make sure a teenager knows his or her career choices (and associated schooling) are entirely up to him or her.
In today’s market, there’s no one-size-fits-all for career paths. Many highly successful people skipped school altogether, went to a trade school, got a certification, or pursued something with seemingly no money in it. There is a lot more freedom today to find alternative paths, apprenticeships, trade programs, and even two-year associates degrees that can become building blocks along a career path without having to sign up for a four-year bachelor’s program.
A parent’s job is to be supportive of whichever path a teenager pursues while helping to ensure thoughtful, grounded steps are taken to optimize success. A carefully thought-out and researched college degree (no matter how circuitous) will always trump a four-year college that fails to bring a person closer to a passion he or she is willing to truly work for and become successful at.
Parents are wise to remember that when young adults are encouraged to do what they’re most passionate about, they’re far more likely to have a satisfying, happy, and successful life.