Navigating Career Conversations with Your Child

Mother overlooks as her teenaged son uses his laptop to study in their kitchen.

As parents, one of our most important roles is to support and help guide our children as they navigate the world and make decisions about their future. Although a young person’s future has many elements and moving parts, one important aspect of this conversation is helping them to think about their future career.  Career conversations can be challenging, but they are essential for helping young people understand their options and in making informed decisions about their education and career paths.

One way of initiating career conversations with your child is by asking open-ended questions. Instead of asking them what they want to be when they grow up, which can feel overwhelming, ask them about their hobbies, interests and passions. Helping your child identify what they enjoy doing and what they are good at can be a great starting point for deeper conversations about what kind of work might be a good fit for them.

With the diverse and fluid nature of the world of work, many children have a limited understanding of the career paths that are available to them, as well as the skills and qualifications needed to pursue certain jobs. As a parent, you can support this by encouraging a variety of experiences (volunteerism, extracurriculars, job shadows, internships) that may broaden their understanding of careers and help them to develop important skills, such as time management and communication, that will be useful in any career field.

A student’s interests and goals may change over time, so it is essential to approach this as an ongoing conversation. As your child enters high school it is a good idea to start having more specific conversations about their plans and goals, in an effort to provide guidance on the steps they need to take to achieve their goals – which may include further education.

Chuck Buseman, Authentic Learning Coordinator.

When it comes to career conversations with your child, it is important to remember that it’s not about telling them what to do, but rather about guiding them to make their own decisions. You can provide them with information, resources and support, but ultimately decisions about their future are up to them. One of the most important things that you can do is listen to your child and be there to support them as they navigate their journey.

Chuck Buseman is the Authentic Learning Coordinator for Central Rivers Area Education Agency in Cedar Falls, Iowa. He can be reached at Central Rivers AEA serves over 5,000 K-12 educators in 18 counties of north central Iowa to improve outcomes for students. Learn more at