Many teens admit they have no idea what they want to do after graduating high school or college. While you can’t make this decision for them, there are things you can do to help them plan their path.
Job shadowing gives a look into the daily routine of professionals in their work environment, which is more informative than any research that can be done from behind a computer. With the valuable experience job shadowing can provide, it’s puzzling why so few teens ever take advantage of the opportunity. One reason may be because they’re not sure where to begin.
About 80 percent of all college students switch their majors.
The average student changes majors 3.5 times.
About 60 percent of college graduates do not work in their major field.
Only 23 percent of Alabama college students graduate in four years.
$23,000 is the cost of delaying college graduation by one year.
SETTING IT UP
To direct your teen to the right job field, think through their academic interests. For example, if your teen is interested in mountains or gemstones, geology may be a field to explore. Failing to nail down primary interests may leave your teen unsure during the costly years of college.
Discuss fields or professions with your teen. Then, research potential opportunities in your area that match what your teen is looking for. If you have a family friend in a profession or industry your child is interested in, ask about job shadowing with them or a co-worker. This ensures your teen will have a more objective view of the profession, but still be comfortable enough to ask questions and benefit from the experience.
WHEN TO START
Job shadowing is frequently scheduled during junior and senior years of high school. However, the earlier it’s set up, the more time there is to figure out what your
teen likes and dislikes. If your teen finds an interesting field through job shadowing in middle school, then he or she can focus high school elective classes in that area. For example, if your teen becomes interested in computer programming through job shadowing, he or she can sign up for computer science or computer programming courses during high school for more preparation for college courses.
Job shadowing sometimes is more beneficial in showing your teen what they don’t want to do, rather than what they want to do. Also, strengths and weaknesses in major-related subjects should be considered. If your middle school student is interested in computer programming but struggles with technology and math classes in high school, it may be a sign that it’s not a good fit as a college major. They could still work in the computer/technology field but in a different area.
Ideally, you want your teen to find his or her perfect career path from the start, but it is often a trial-and-error process. The earlier they begin, the more time there is for additional experiences.
If your teen has a great shadowing experience, he or she should keep the professional they worked with as a career mentor. Professionals in job shadowing programs often want to help young people with their career searches. Those already in the profession are the best sources for learning what education and training is necessary to enter that field upon graduation and suggestions to be ahead of the curve. A mentor can also help direct your teen to part-time job opportunities in the field that will give them more experience.
It’s vital that your teen asks questions during their experience, but it’s just as important that you ask your teen questions afterward. Find out which parts of a job shadowing experience were most enjoyable. If you determine the parts of a job that seemed most interesting, you may be able to help your teen find a job that appeals more direct- ly to those interests. Job shadowing isn’t necessarily the answer to what your teen’s career will be, but it is a giant step in the right direction.
“Some high schools have well-established job shadowing programs that may require one or two days of job shadowing opportunities. These experiences can be built upon by setting up additional job shadowing with family members, friends, and professionals within the community during the summer or holiday breaks. The more exposure students have to various occupations, the greater their chances will be of making a well-informed decision about their undergraduate major early in their college careers.” – Jennifer Bruton (mother of 1)
“We set up five different job shadowing opportunities for our eighth-grader. He was more prepared for high school registration and looking towards college.” – Anita Carter (mother of 3)