One of the primary things I focus on as college prep consultant is to actually get families to stop focusing so much on college, and instead start focusing on career routes.
After all, you aren't raising your teen to be a college student, are you? You are raising them to be an adult! The goal is that they are prepared for a career path.
I've created a 4-week Career Prep Challenge, but really the process I take in there is what I would recommend for students regardless of whether they are in the challenge or not.
1. Take some personality/strengths tests
One thing this does is move the focus away from a negative (what a student doesn't know about their direction/future) to a positive (a student's natural strengths/gifts/abilities). This is motivating and encouraging, and also gives students the tools to articulate who they are better to a career professional down the road. In my challenge, I have several personality tests that I recommend (you can also check out my article on personality tests here), and also downloadable forms for parents/mentors to give feedback on the results.
2. Develop a mental framework for this process
This is crucial. Most people don't really discuss how to go about choosing a career pursuit, and so teens are left with the simple "follow your passion" mantra. The problem with this is if most teens pursed careers in their "passion," we'd primarily have game designers, professional LEGO builders, and social media influencers. Passion doesn't always equal a job. And passion turned into a career can often stop being a passion.
Instead, I take students through the book So Good They Can't Ignore You by Cal Newport, and discuss building a craftsman approach to career exploration. Let's focus on building a set of valuable skills, that we can then leverage to get into jobs we love! In my challenge I have guides to help students work through the book and develop their own framework as to how they will approach this decision process.
3. Get insight from real career professionals
Don't just get sold a marketing pitch from a college that may or may not have a good job placement record, talk with people who are actually doing what you think you want to do! Get their insight, pick their brain. Ask them what skills are needed, what colleges they recommend, if ranking matters, where they are hiring from, and what day-to-day life looks like in that profession. That insight is crucial to making wise choices about your next step! In my Career Prep Challenge I have a step-by-step process I take students through to find a career professional, and lists of questions to ask them. I have had SO many people come back and say that this step was a game-changer for their teen! That professional can also be a great source of information on the next steps to take to further explore that career path.
4. Re-evaluate and repeat
After getting feedback from a career professional, what are you thinking about this career field? Still interested? Then explore further! Not so sure anymore? Then go back to step one and repeat with another field that aligns with your strengths that you are interested in, and keep repeating until you find a pat you feel confident pursuing! Remember, you aren't committing yourself for life, you are just trying to determine what's the most logical next set of skills for you to pursue acquiring!
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