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How to help your teen make the right career choice?

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

As parents, we often place a great responsibility on ourselves for our children's success. We want what's best for them. We would like to see them choose a career that will allow them to express their talents and passions, but also we would like the job prospects and the salary to be good. Despite all our good intentions, it may turn out that the situation is not going exactly the way it was initially anticipated.

It can be difficult to know how to intervene with your child to help him in his choice. What to do? Where to start? What should we avoid saying? In summary, is there a good way to proceed?

As Louis Cournoyer, director of the master's degree in career counselling and professor at UQAM (University of Quebec at Montreal), points out, know that the career choice period is a period of great change on all levels, whether physiological (in terms of brain development), social (we meet many new people) and the time to make a choice at the beginning of adulthood is rather short and filled with strict rules (for example the R score). It is therefore not abnormal to see 85% of young people demonstrating indecision.

Here are the feelings and questions your teen may experience during this period:

1- Indecision, stress, anxiety and anguish

2- He seeks academic and professional information, but he does not always know how to treat it. It's just too much information. Sometimes he is unable to recognize the similarities and differences between jobs. They may not be able to organize all the information they receive by aligning it with what really matters to them.

3- He needs autonomy, to feel that he is in control of his life, but also accompaniment.

4- He must choose and "choose" means to renounce at the same time, thus eliminating choices. It is therefore necessary to assume one's choices. (from the conference "How to nurture a strong and guiding bond with your child?" by Louis Cournoyer)

Now, what if we asked the question differently, and instead asked ourselves: Is there "A GOOD CAREER CHOICE"? The answer is that in reality: "you can't find a career, you learn how to build it"! We continue to build it throughout our lives. That is why we must focus on the process rather than the end. This means focusing on the steps and elements that lead to that choice, as opposed to relying on the final choice itself. In reality, I understand that this seems easier said than done. We have our own insecurities and at a time when we are targeting a choice for our teenagers that meets, from our point of view, all the criteria, this choice is reassuring!

However, if we are unable to accompany our children through the steps and elements that make up a choice and we only focus on making a decision; We are actually fixing the problem temporarily and we risk postponing the same decision-making problem until later in our teen's life.

I will give you an example, if I teach my child to cook he will be able to cook different recipes, whereas if I teach him a recipe by only memorizing and without understanding the steps, he will not be able to invent others and develop the necessary skills to cook later. He will only know how to copy by memory the recipes I have taught him or he will always need me to cook new recipes. Here's another example, when we teach our kids to ride a bike, we don't immediately talk to them about doing a triathlon. We start by breaking down the steps by explaining to them that they must keep one foot on the ground, then they must push on the foot that is still on the ground to give themselves momentum and at the same time pedal to leave, etc ... In short, we break down the action and we are in the present moment.

Now, as a parent, how can I concretely help my child?

Here are the personal skills you will need to use as well as some food for thought:

1- First of all, you must establish a relationship of trust so that your child can come and confide in you. So be present and listen.

2- Then, trying to see the world from your vision, this means: "put yourself in your shoes". It's normal not to think the same way and that doesn't stop us from trying to find out the reasons that motivate him to think a certain way.

3- BE REAL! Remain yourself and be sincere. Your child knows you and will give more interest to your comments if he feels they are sincere.

4- Try to listen without judgment by respecting his thought and without evaluating it.

5- Discuss with him by asking to name his personal and professional experiences. The good and the not so good. What he learned from these life lessons. The important thing is to allow him to make sense of his experiences so that he can name and recognize his experience. This will allow him to eventually transpose it into a career.

6- Question the "absolutes"! For example, the words "must", "always" and "never" are often words that close possibilities and prevent exploration.

7- Talk to him about his "ideal"! Discuss what would be the ideal situation, profession or life and ask him to describe what he means by it. Reflect on him by summarizing what he has just described so that he can appropriate his descriptions. Name what he thinks is most important, then try to see what use it could be translated into.

8- As mentioned above, emphasize to your child not the professional choice of others, but rather the decision-making process they went through. Ask them about how some people around them made their choice, the difficulties they encountered and the experiences they learned.

To learn more about this topic, you can visit Espace Parents: .This site was created by the Ordre des conseillers et conseillères d'orientation du Québec: You will find a lot of interesting information to accompany you and equip you in the personal and identity development of your child.

Finally, I suggest the book "S'orienter malgré l'indécision", by Isabelle Falardeau and Roland Roy, which includes a typology of undecided high school students, university students and young people who are not in school (15, 25 or 35 years old). Many young people who feel vocational indecision, in school or not, will probably recognize themself and find strategies to help. Further more, this article was inspired by a conference that was broadcast as part of Quebec Orientation Week in 2019, given by Louis Cournoyer, professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal. I therefore recommend his book: "L'ado en mode décision: sept profils our comprendre et aider son choix de carrière", by Louis Cournoyer and Lise Lachance.

If you continue to have questions or your child requires further help with career choices, do not hesitate to contact a guidance counsellor. Guidance professionals are here to help!

Sylvie Taillefer

Guidance Counsellor, Career Coaching

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