5 ways you can support without telling when it comes to parental career advice

5 ways you can support without telling when it comes to parental career advice

As with most things new it’s often difficult to know where to start your research to find out more. Having worked with young people and their parents over the last ten years I’ve found that adopting a curious mindset can really help you and your son or daughter to work together to find the right apprenticeship.

Here I share five questions that I would encourage parents supporting their children with their future career choices to reflect upon before grabbing the proverbial bull by the horns:

1. Am I where I thought I’d be when it comes to my career?

It might seem a little ridiculous to start by exploring your own career journey, but until you start to identify the experiences you had when you were making the decisions facing your child, you’re at risk of providing advice that is out of date and uninformed.

In a campaign I launched in 2017 with EY, parents from across the UK were asked about their experience when it came to career advice.

  • 67% of parents admitted that they were not in a career they thought they would be

  • 74% did not receive the guidance they needed to pursue their chosen career.

Sound familiar?

As the biggest influence on your teenager’s initial career choices you have an important role to play in supporting and helping them to feel ready to start the next step of their development.  

My advice to parents is to take the blinkers off and open your own eyes as part of the process.  And remember, apprenticeships have no age limit and could present an opportunity for you to start a new career…

2. If I’m honest with myself, what’s the best way for my child to start their career?

It’s incredibly unlikely that your child will answer this question the same way.

Over the course of a lifetime, work takes up a lot of our time, and the generation your child has been born into (Generation Z) are keen to find a career they enjoy, which plays to their strengths and helps them to make a difference.

As hard as it might be, try not to project ideas of what you think they should be doing, allow them to use this time as an exercise of self-exploration. Of course, you are likely to know your child better than anyone else, so do challenge their thoughts and ask them questions, but ultimately, it’s their life and their choice.

If they stumble or fail, they will learn that life can be difficult, and resilience is a useful skill. Don’t kill the buzz, let them surprise you and remember itss called career guidance and advice for a reason.

3. Am I worrying too much about what people will think if they don’t go to university?

The fear of missing out is something which plagues the modern world.

We are only one click away from seeing what everyone else is doing, and whilst this is driving a huge amount of anxiety across the world, it also presents opportunity to learn more and expose ourselves to different experiences and ways of thinking.

In the same research I mentioned earlier, 25% of parents admitted ‘There was nothing to talk about’ when it came to discussing career options with their child as they were going to university. But 95% of parents felt that more young people doing apprenticeships straight out of school was a good thing for the UK as a whole – talk about a contradiction.

If you are worrying your child is going to be at a disadvantage by not applying to university then you need to remember, once again, that this isn’t your choice to make.

4. Who else can help researching different options?

You are never far from an opportunity to connect your child to someone who can help them to explore their options, both online and in-person.

While this generation like to spend lots of time online, they also like to talk face-to-face, and you can help facilitate these interactions. Invest time in attending parents’ evenings and careers fairs hosted by their school and seek out bigger national careers fairs in most big cities where you can literally meet hundreds of employers in one day.

By seeking out opportunities for yourself, you are showing them the importance of being proactive. Perhaps consider people in your own personal and professional networks but there is a caveat here. The purpose is to expose your child to a greater number of frames of reference to the world of work, not to strategically connect them with people in your network that are pursuing careers you think they should be doing.

No matter who they meet, encourage them to be curious and to ask questions to help them build up a picture of different careers out there. If they lack confidence initially, then start by asking the first few questions. But do not be tempted to answer the questions posed back to them. As a teacher and recruiter, I cannot tell you how many times I have seen this happen. It doesn’t help with your child’s confidence, they need encouragement to answer for themselves. You need to help them speak for themselves.

5. Where are the best apprenticeship opportunities?

We live in the age of the 'influencer'.  It’s more than likely that the last time you bought something of high value – a car or holiday for example – you sought advice from others in the form of reading reviews online.

A career is a big investment too, especially if it’s one where there is the potential to work your way all the way from an apprenticeship to becoming a partner as I’ve seen from my time working in professional services.

Generation Z love to share and luckily for you there are plenty of places where you can read what they are sharing when it comes to their experience working as an apprentice for some of the UK’s biggest, and well-known, employers.

As a starting point check out RateMyApprenticeship and AllAboutSchoolLeavers ‘UK Top Employers’ rankings – both sites will help you to build up a picture of what it’s really like to work somewhere.  Which organisations young people a few years ahead of your teenager recognise as working hard to develop and nurture their people is valuable information to have. Whether they are apprentices or graduates knowing more about any organisation from the inside will help you gauge the quality of the training and development.  

Trust me, they will be grateful that you are taking the time to invest in their future with them and be impressed as to how much you already know!

Post adapted from content originally written and published for the What Could I Be? website.

Photo by Neil Thomas on Unsplash

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