Navigating successful career conversations with your teen

Navigating successful career conversations with your teen
23 August 2019    Donnay Torr    0 comments
Parents play a huge role in helping their kids to choose a fulfilling career pathway. Just because our kids come to us for career advice, though, doesn’t mean that we don’t find the process just as nerve-wracking as they do! And sometimes, we just don’t have all the answers: but we can try to guide them anyway. Here are some useful tips for having positive career conversations with your teen.

Future proof your kids

Matching skills to careers

The world of work is changing rapidly, and will become even more challenging in future, given the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation in the workplace. Career paths are no longer linear – according to a comprehensive 2017 research report by the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA), 17-year-olds today are more likely to have a “portfolio career”: up to 17 different jobs across five different industries. This is a staggering idea for those of us who are used to building and maintaining longer-term careers in one or two industries!

What this means at heart is that developing transferable skills and capabilities are vital to succeed in the future workplace. It’s also important for youth to develop the so-called “soft skills” that will give them an edge in the workplace. When young people focus on their natural skill sets and make career decisions based on their strengths and what appeals to them, they are more likely to have positive, fulfilling work experiences.

Basically: think skills, not careers.

Ask your child these questions to get them thinking about what they’d like to do:
  • If money weren’t an issue, what would you want to do?
  • What brings you joy?
  • Do you see yourself doing [insert occupation here] for the rest of your life?
  • What do you think your chosen job might be like, practically?
  • Who do you know that does similar work?
  • What are you hoping to achieve once you start working? For example: financial security, changing the world, creating something…
  • What do you think your strong points are?
  • What do you struggle with?
  • When you think of your future, what scares you?
Skillsroad has developed a range of resources focused on getting youth to think about their natural skills and preferences, and how they might translate their skills into a satisfying career. Our free Career Quiz is a job test focused on helping youth identify their skills and match it to potential occupations. It also gives teens an insight into the school subjects they can choose for HSC, depending on their Quiz results. Our Job Fit Test gives youth more insight into their work readiness for a given occupation. They’re a great way to kick off conversations.

Choosing an educational pathway that fits

Despite its unique challenges, the future is filled with opportunities. There are so many options available to youth today, and that includes the educational pathways they can take to achieve their goals.

According to the team at National Skills Week, “learning by doing is as important as academic learning”.

If your child has shown no interest in a university qualification, these are only some of the other educational pathways available:

There are a myriad of skills and qualifications that can be achieved through apprenticeships, traineeships and vocational education pathways. Youth can immediately get to grips with real world skills and learn on-the-job, while earning money at the same time. For many students, this is the way to go. If your child seems stuck on how to achieve their goals, explain to them that there are many roads they could take. Here are the top five benefits of doing an apprentice- or traineeship.

Use these questions to start a conversation about potential study options that will suit your child:
  • Are you willing to put in long hours studying textbooks and attending class?
  • Do you feel more comfortable creating or doing hands-on learning?
  • Do you need a bit more time to decide what you would like to do?
  • Would you like to earn money while studying?
  • How do you see yourself holding down a job while studying?
  • Do you want to specialise in one field, or try your hand at different things?
  • What scares you about going to university?
  • What scares you about accepting a traineeship/apprenticeship?
  • Do you feel pressured to make a certain decision? Why/why not?
  • What is your gut telling you?

Researching career options

One of the best ways for youth to figure out what they want to do and why they want to do it, is to start researching. There are various ways to do this, from using Google to gather more information about career options, to speaking to actual people in roles that your teen may be considering. They can find the people in the public eye who are doing similar jobs, and track their career journey. And yes, you can also share your own experiences and journey to get to where you are today!

Encourage your teen to gather as much information as possible, and to look widely: books, podcasts, videos, online research, career expos, special events and talks, interviews and meetings with working people, career advisors and school guidance counsellors… It’s also possible to gain actual hands-on experience in their fields of interest by completing casual or part-time work, or workplace experience while still at school. This could give them a quick taste of what things are like.


It helps to think out of the box about careers. For example: if your child loves the ocean and wants to “work in it”, have a chat to break down the other opportunities that might be in this field. Then, guide them to match their natural skills with possible career options. For example, these are only some of the career options for ocean-loving teens:
  • Marine Biologist
  • Scuba diving instructor
  • Aquaculturist
  • Fish-keeper at an aquarium
  • Boat builder or boat captain
  • Marine mammal trainer
  • Marine Archaeology
  • Marine environment educator
  • Marine Researcher
  • Aquatic veterinarian
  • Underwater filmmaker
  • Journalist and/or photographer who focuses on environmental and natural reporting
  • Communications Professional who works in an ocean-related industry
  • Ocean Engineering
Skillsroad features a comprehensive industries section that provides more information about a variety of career options, as well as a range of industry videos illustrating a day in the life of different jobs. Encourage your teen to browse.

Celebrating skills

Your teen’s natural skills are worth their weight in gold, and can lead to an amazing, satisfying career. Skillsroad celebrates the myriad of skills and qualifications that can be achieved through a vocational education pathway, so encourage them to give it a think: is Uni their best option, or could an apprenticeship, traineeship or Vocational Education Training (VET) be the road to their dream career? It’s good to remind them that they have options.

Main image by from Pexels.

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