3 ways to build clarity on your child’s career choice

Photo by Jens Lelie on Unsplash

“I don’t think there is much scope in Cognitive Science”, said Amy’s father one Sunday evening during our introductory call where I was getting them acquainted with Power Club.

It’s only natural for parents to want the best for their children, and they often worry about the potential challenges and uncertainties that might come with certain career choices. They hope for paths that offer more stability, less uncertainty, and promising rewards. However, it’s crucial to understand that what parents perceive as a good career option might not align with their child’s aspirations and passions.

As a coach and mentor, I’ve witnessed this dilemma numerous times. Young minds may harbor dreams and ambitions that differ from what their parents envision for them.

So, how do you handle a situation where what you think is the best career path for your child is different from a path that they have chosen? As a parent, it’s difficult. You want them to spread their wings but also keep them grounded to reality. How do you clear the fog of uncertainty that you have regarding the choice they want to make?

In the realm of fostering a profound connection between parents and their children’s career choices, three pivotal facets emerge as beacons of clarity and support. In my personal experience, I have found that these three aspects can instill a sense of certainty in any parent regarding their child’s career path.

Let’s dive right in!

Step 1: Understand the job environment

It’s entirely natural for parents to feel skeptical when their child approaches them with a newfound passion, especially when the child might have limited knowledge about the practicalities of the chosen path. As a parent with years of experience, you are aware that success in any career isn’t solely about generating innovative ideas or creating something remarkable. It entails numerous tasks, some mundane and less exciting, that contribute to overall success.

To effectively evaluate your child’s career choice, it is essential to begin by gaining a clear understanding of what a typical day entails for a professional in that domain. This process involves becoming aware of various aspects of the job that your child might not find as appealing but would be willing to embrace as part of their journey.

For example, a writing job that involves handling client grievances or a research job that requires you to keep writing proposals to get your research grant. Go through this great resource to get started, Role Models’ videos on CareerGirls, I have seen that a conversation with people who are actually doing that job right now is quite effective. Encourage your child to find such people on LinkedIn and request an informational interview. You’ll be amazed at how responsive people are to share their stories and knowledge.

Step 2: Understand the lifestyle

Adulting also involves determining the type of lifestyle you aspire to lead, calculating the necessary income to sustain that lifestyle, and assessing the likelihood of earning that amount in the career you eagerly wish to pursue.

Do the same for your child by creating an approximation of the cost of living in the city where they envision working in after completing college. Then, compare this with the average starting salaries in their preferred profession. This can give you and your child a clear view of the lifestyle they can have in their preferred career choice.

For example, you may realize that many event planners or community managers cannot lead a “lavish lifestyle” in a metropolitan area. You can also check out Numbeo’s Cost of Living Estimator for a basic understanding of different expenses and how your child may need to budget for them. Since this doesn’t take into account income tax, insurance and any emergency expenses, multiply the final value by 1.5 to get a fair idea of what your child needs to make in a month.

Step 3: Understand the preparation required

You might be wondering if your child will stay committed for the duration of time required in many careers, especially those that demand years of experience or additional degrees beyond undergrad. Careers that involve managing others or require deep domain knowledge often necessitate substantial preparation. To assess whether your child is prepared for this commitment, it’s crucial to understand the typical qualifications and background that companies expect from candidates in the desired role. Engage them in a discussion about their readiness to dedicate the necessary time and effort.

For instance, research might reveal that most practicing Neuropsychologists hold a PhD and have completed a 2-year postdoctoral research program. Similarly, CEOs of large companies typically reach that position in their 50s or later. You can explore the concept of Job Zones, which classifies occupations based on the level of preparation required. For a more precise understanding, reviewing actual job descriptions related to your child’s desired career on LinkedIn can be helpful. This way, you can better gauge the qualifications needed and ascertain whether your child is prepared to meet the demands of their chosen path.

Approaching the discussion of your child’s career choice using the toolkit I have offered above can indeed be beneficial and effective. When your child explores the different facets of their preferred career path, it demonstrates that they are taking their decision seriously and putting in effort to understand the potential outcomes and challenges.

By reducing uncertainty and gaining conviction in their decision, they can effectively communicate their goals and aspirations to you. This clarity will make it easier for you, as a parent, to understand their perspective and support their choices. It also shows that they are mature and responsible in their approach to making important life decisions.

Ultimately, knowing that you are backing their decisions will provide them with the confidence and motivation to pursue their chosen career path with enthusiasm and determination. Your support can make a significant difference in their journey towards a fulfilling and successful future.

Guiding the Gifted & Talented: 3 Aspects for Successful Career Discovery

Successful Career Discovery
Career Discovery

Meet Maya, a 10th grader studying in a renowned international school in Dubai. Like many of her classmates, she hasn’t figured out the path she wants to pursue after school. What makes her different from her peers however is the range of activities in which she is thriving. She never had trouble getting top grades in most of her school subjects. Maya has a gift for writing and the arts. She has written dozens of articles for her school magazine and won essay writing competitions. On top of that, she creates amazing artwork which won her praise from the head of the school. She is also  passionate about researching the human mind. One would think that such a bright child would have no problem making a career decision. However, Maya often feels torn between her different interests and is not sure how to go about making the best choice for her future. She is not alone in this struggle.

Maya falls under the category of “gifted & talented” children, i.e., those who possess a great amount of natural ability, talent, or intelligence which becomes evident at a very young age. The career indecision that Maya is experiencing right now is common to most gifted & talented children as per Professor Jae Yup Jung of the University of New South Wales, Australia. According to Professor Jung, the conventional approaches to career decision-making often fall short when helping gifted & talented children.

Given that these children have the highest potential to become leaders in different fields and bring about a significant impact on the lives of others, it’s important to understand what unique aspects apply to these students when it comes to choosing the best-fit future pathway and how we, as parents and educators, can support them effectively. 

In my experience, the following 3 aspects should be kept in mind when dealing with the career development of gifted & talented students. The same factors have been highlighted by the leading global centers for research on gifted and talented youth.

Aspect 1: Multipotentiality – Embracing the Gift of Possibilities

For the longest time, conventional wisdom recommended that people specialize and start specializing early. However, gifted & talented students are multipotentialites, i.e., they have interests and abilities in a range of fields. They can be good in multiple career fields. For example, Maya can enjoy working as a psychologist, a journalist, or even a designer. Not only that, she can be especially suited to work in an array of emerging interdisciplinary fields like Climate Communication, User Experience Research, Bioethics, and Game Design. 

According to the Renzulli Center for Creativity, Gifted Education and Talented Development, enabling Maya and other gifted & talented children to become open to such possibilities and realize that they don’t have to choose just one thing requires exposure to diverse possibilities, including emerging careers that require multidisciplinary thinking.

Aspect 2: Mindful Excellence – Embracing Imperfection on the Path to Excellence

In recent years, perfectionism has gotten a bad rap as it seems to be a key reason why a lot of high-potential students often feel that they are not good enough and experience anxiety before high-stakes examinations and competitions. Yes, it’s also true that the high expectations that gifted & talented students have from themselves along with high expectations from parents and teachers become a source of stress.

However, author, psychologist, and director of Gifted Development Center Linda Kreger Silverman points out that there is another side to perfectionism. Gifted & Talented students are best placed to strive for excellence when they focus on their strengths. What they require is guidance to understand what excellence in different careers looks like and a realistic estimate of the effort and time required to get there. They also would benefit a lot from mindfulness practices which readies them to overcome self-criticism and persevere through obstacles as they explore future possibilities.

Aspect 3: A Need for Intellectual Stimulation – Balancing Challenge and Skill to Experience FLOW

Gifted & Talented students are filled with a desire to challenge themselves and it often requires personalized attention on the part of school teachers to keep them engaged in class. When it comes to learning more about different kinds of occupations, Maya and other gifted students with whom I have worked with, often share a worry about whether a said career would be able to sustain their interest for this particular reason.

When Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi interviewed 8000 artists, scientists, and other professionals across different cultures to find the conditions that lead people to really enjoy what they are doing for their own sake and not for any reward, one of the conditions that came out is the need for matching challenges and skills. This means that relying on activities like watching videos or reading articles about different careers alone may not be stimulating enough. Gifted & talented children should be encouraged to immerse themselves in activities that professionals perform in their day-to-day work. I’ve seen gifted and talented students enjoying these challenges much more as they find them to be novel and more complex compared to the academic tasks they do in different subjects. To help them identify work activities where they will experience a sense of timelessness, gifted & talented students should be asked to try out increasingly complex work activities as they build their skills.

Gifted students can grow up to be eminent individuals who can build game-changing innovations and move the world forward. To realize their full potential and ignite their passions they require a conducive environment and a special focus on the 3 aspects highlighted above. Maya and other gifted and talented students would thus be able to effectively tackle career indecision and set themselves to thrive in college and beyond.

At Power Club, we’ve brought together a world-class team of industry experts, college admission advisors, and life design coaches to build a personalized, experiential, and collaborative career discovery program exclusively for the gifted and talented.