What’s the best age to start career planning?

What do you want to be when you grow up? This is a question we often ask children. Teacher, astronaut, and president are typical answers. It’s charming, but it’s also the first step we take in career guidance for school leavers – we plant the seed that they need to start thinking about what their place in the world will be in the future.

While it’s not an impossible ambition to reach for the stars (literally), at what age should we start introducing them to more realistic career goals? Career planning is a very individual process, and it can be difficult to look to the future if you don’t have a clear idea of your child’s strengths and interests.

This is where the concept of career consciousness can help narrow down the possibilities. Parents can start encouraging career orientation in their children around the age of 12 to 14. This doesn’t necessarily have to be formal career counselling.

It essentially means becoming aware of different career options. You can do this casually around the dinner table. Bring up discussions where you talk about what people around them do for a living and if any of these careers pique their interest. There’s no rule of thumb for this, and some families organically start the conversation even earlier. It’s about how you can help your child find their passion and their calling.

It’s important to expose students to careers that excite them at a young age. Otherwise, students may miss out on their true passions. Choosing a job based solely on financial benefits puts unnecessary pressure and anxiety on students, which reduces clarity.

You can introduce much more as a parent as your child approaches their tweens. Keep the conversations going, but keep them simple. Discuss what occupations family and other potential role models do for a living, and encourage them to ask about them. Let them spend time with that person, or take them to visit them at work. Older children can even participate in an internship or job shadowing programme.

Encouraging students to visit a workplace can help them become more comfortable with career choices. Not only that, but it can help them dispel misconceptions about a career choice and make the right decision for their future. After all, there’s nothing better than hands-on experience!

Research backs up the idea of career consciousness as a way for students to better understand the world and begin making career choices using their imagination. According to the International Journal of Academic Research in Progressive Education and Development, career awareness is the first element that influences a child’s early career planning.

So it’s never too early to start thinking about a child’s career future. Planning and preparation for a chosen career can begin in childhood and continue into adolescence.

When should formal career guidance be introduced?

Career counselling in the early teen years (13 – 14) is a great way to explore different career options if your child is more interested in assessing their choices than making a final decision. If your child already knows what stream they’ll study -physics, commerce, arts, or science – they may only need to reach out to a career counsellor when they are reaching 16 – 17 years of age.

To help your child find the right path, a professional career counsellor can make the journey constructive.

The advantages of career counselling

What can career counselling offer that beats working with a career guidance teacher? Talking to a professional career counsellor can help you determine what your child is interested in and whether they’re good at it. The conversations and assessments that happen will also shed light on your child’s talents, skills, and personality – essential factors that are often not apparent to parents. After finding out your child’s strengths and weaknesses, a career counsellor can explore appropriate career options for your child.

If your child wants to pursue a career in the arts, STEM, entrepreneurship, or even an unconventional field but isn’t sure what employment options are available, career counsellors can help your child explore the different career options that best fit their talents and interests.

Why career guidance is important for students

Having a clearer idea of a career goal not only motivates the learner to work toward it, but also allows them to make some practical choices that will help take them over the line. These include:

  • They can decide on a stream or learn more about the one they want to choose.
  • They can figure out which college or learning solution best fits their career goals.
  • They can find out if there are tutoring or coaching classes that will help them achieve the results they want.
  • They can sign up for extracurricular activities that are useful for their chosen field or help them gain knowledge, such as robotics.
  • They can seek out people who can help them achieve their career goals.

Careers counsellors can also add value by keeping track of any developments related to their studies and providing insight into university and job market opportunities. They also have a vast professional network of universities and employment agencies to help your child make the right decision about studying and options abroad.

As a parent, how can you positively contribute? Remind your child that finding the perfect career is often a long journey of self-discovery as well as trial and error. Your child may change their mind as they progress through their studies, but be patient with them as they make these difficult decisions. Allow your children to dream, explore, and discover their passions. If you inspire, nurture and encourage them, they’ll grow into confident individuals who have their career aspirations firmly in mind.

Use career guidance to find the best job for students

Aptitude tests can provide crucial information when determining your student’s strengths and weaknesses. By cross-referencing the results of these tests with an occupational interest inventory, Career Fit can generate a personalised report with 16 potential career options from a database of over 1,200 choices. If you’re interested in learning more about how this process can benefit your students, don’t hesitate to contact us for additional information.