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Practical experience is the best teacher. While aligning coursework to fit the chosen career is a great place to start, the best way for kids to get a feel for specific jobs is to work in the field as an apprentice, intern or employee. Parents can do many things to get their child involved on some level in their future careers.
- Talk to local employers in the area to see if there are any paying opportunities in your child’s chosen field. Remember that these opportunities may not be as obvious as you think. For example, if your child desires to be a veterinarian, she will obviously not be able to serve as an animal doctor, but local veterinarian clinics may offer positions to young people interested. They may be able to gain exposure to the field by cleaning dog cages, taking pets out to their owners or answering phones. These jobs offer such students an opportunity to see what kind of illnesses animals suffer from and the general procedures of a veterinarian’s business and can help them get a sense for what they would be doing should they choose this career path.
- If no paying jobs are available, your child may offer to shadow a job for a day or a week, or serve as an intern. Even when it doesn’t pay, this experience is extremely beneficial as it shows your child what he would be responsible for should he choose to work in the field. Experiences such as these are often better for helping students pin down what they want to do than five courses in the area would be.
- Look into high school programs that allow integration of high school coursework with a community college certification program. Some programs such as CNA or Mechanics programs offer a way to earn college credit while still in high school and work toward a certification program at the same time. These types of programs are becoming more popular among high schools and are an effective way to work toward a certification program while completing their high school required curriculum.
- Attend PTO meetings or guest speaker engagements where community members come to the school to make talks. Many times the school counselors instigate these events. Inquire as to whether there will be guest speakers at the school regarding different career areas and attend if you can.
- Use your own resources and connections to local community members working in different industries. Encouraging your high school-aged child to talk with them may give them insight into the career field they represent and help them narrow down their career preferences.
Parents can help their children seek opportunities in the real world by talking to local employers, looking into programs in their local schools that feature guest speakers who work in various professions and pooling their resources to help their child connect to business owners and employers. Some of these people will be happy to give young people a chance to check out the work environment to see if it is something they would like to pursue as a career. They often appreciate the help, and even if the experience is non-paying, opportunities like this can often evolve into real jobs later.
The main thing to do as a parent is to get involved. Communicate with your local school guidance counselor and school to see what else you can do to help.
Things Students Can Do Outside of School to Prepare for Future Jobs and Careers
Students can --and should-- take steps to prepare for their future careers starting in high school. Learn what they can do now and how you, as a parent, can help.