Help identify your child’s interests early on.

College and career planning can be a daunting task, as I’ve learned most recently with my daughter Sarah, who’s a high school senior. I’m glad our family began determining her interests and possible careers early on in order to find the college that will best suit her. I believe it’s good to help a child identify/define her strengths and interests as soon as you start noticing anything bubble to the top. My daughter has had a creative streak since childhood. That was evident in the games she made up for neighborhood friends, in the ways she interacted with and distracted her younger brother, and in the poems, stories, and essays she wrote.

Admittedly, I was disappointed when I saw her shying away from math (my interest) and sciences (something my husband has always enjoyed), but it was also when I began realizing and acknowledging that her unique creative interests and personality would begin to guide her college major and career path.

An enjoyment of any given subject can be applied to many careers so to narrow the career options, assessments that identify where skills, interests, and work values, such as those in Kuder Navigator®, are helpful for refining the search.

Career assessments help narrow career options your child may not have considered.

When Sarah began junior high, I started pushing her to take classes that had to do with her interests, which at that point had mainly been Yearbook. Then, one day Sarah came home from her mandatory Careers class and started talking about how she took the Kuder Skills Confidence Assessment®.

It came as no surprise to any of us that Sarah ranked high in journalism, marketing, and communications. By taking this assessment in a class early on, not only was Sarah exposed to considering these newfound options, but as a parent, I was able to help guide her into taking classes that would expose her to the elements found in those careers to see if they truly would be a good fit.

When Sarah began high school, I still encouraged her to take a variety of courses. My reasoning was that she might be exposed to something that interested her that she hadn’t previously realized or considered. Though I knew there were some things she’d never be (i.e. a nurse – we both get nauseous at the sight of pain, blood and suffering), I didn’t want her to narrow her focus too much yet either. Conversely, when exposed to something repeatedly and for a long enough duration, something that seemed so appealing before can start losing its appeal.

That turned out to be just the case for Sarah. For years Sarah thought that journalism would be a good fit. It suited her interests pretty well and she enjoyed writing. (It was easy for her to whip up whatever was needed for her school classes.) However, once she took her high school yearbook and newspaper class, she determined that it wasn’t as enjoyable as she thought it would be; it was not for her. As a parent, this was a relief to have her learn that lesson while still in high school rather than two years into her college experience. That lesson saved a lot of time and money!

Given her new insight, I was able to help her evaluate her interest deeper and figure out new types of classes to take. Marketing and Advertising were classes that she was introduced to next, which were in the same type of creative thinking and writing, yet had more freedom to write how she wanted. Sarah soon found that these classes were something she was good at and enjoyed.

Help your child think outside the box to explore career interests.

Sarah is now at the end of her senior year. She is still interested in pursuing a career in marketing, and she has decided to major in marketing in college. This is a major that, as a parent, I can encourage because I know she could

support herself with a job in this field. Not only were we reassured with her choice through her Kuder assessment results, but also once she had real-world experience having a marketing internship. Through Sarah’s school there is a School-to-Work program that facilitates finding students’ internships in the area.

I encouraged Sarah to become a part of this program because I knew just like once she took her journalism class, it would be another tool to determining if marketing was the right fit, and offered great work experience. After discussing the difference between simply taking classes at school and this type of out in the work world, she interviewed and was accepted at Kuder, Inc. Sarah was wary at first, but over time I have seen her light up when talking about her internship, and now is positive that pursuing marketing is the right path for her. For this
reason, I would encourage parents and students to seek out programs like this in their school or community.

Sometimes being supportive means encouraging your child to be realistic.

My husband and I haven’t always been supportive of Sarah’s choices. When she thought she wanted to go into journalism, we repeatedly asked what she was going to do for her second job to support herself. Sure, some journalism positions are lucrative but many offer low wages, making it challenging to make ends meet.

Kids who have had most or all of their expenses covered by parents up to this point in their lives generally don’t have a realistic idea of how much money it will take to cover their daily living expenses once they’re on their own. Housing, insurance, gas, vehicle maintenance, utilities, healthcare costs, etc. sure do add up!

When a child has a strong sense of what they enjoy doing and a career path that is of interest, it narrows the choices for college. If your child wants to go into nursing but a university does not offer a nursing program, you’re able to rule out that college. Conversely, if your child isn’t entirely clear on the direction they want to head, but know they’re interested in, for example, business, then it’s wise to choose a college that has an overall favorable reputation for business degrees.

While a school offering a strong program for your child’s interest(s) is an important factor in selecting a school, the university or higher education your child chooses may be limited by parameters you set for location and costs.

It is important to help guide your child in this process by being the voice of reason and logic when they may suggest going to Florida simply because it’s warm there (thankfully, that discussion didn’t come up often and didn’t last long when we reviewed out-of-state tuition costs, the additional transportation costs, etc. with Sarah).

Being a part of the career planning process is an investment in your child’s future.

In conclusion, I believe that being involved in your child’s career and college planning process is a very important task. You are able to expose them to new ideas, careers, and perspectives on priorities.

Not only do I believe that being involved in the process is important, having a process and planning from early on is important as well. Just as in Sarah’s case, determining interests and taking specific classes early on can save everyone from a headache later – and have a huge impact on the destination to which their career path will lead.

About the Author

Annette Fields is a mother of two. She is a financial analyst and is a graduate of Creighton University. Annette’s daughter, Sarah, is a former Kuder intern.

This article was originally appeared in the Kuder Blog March 31, 2015