Talking to Kids About Their Career Path and Backup Plan

Today’s kids can start mapping out their career path as early as preschool. Here, a Macomb County expert offers insight on how you can take an active role in the development of your child’s future plans.

Life after high school can be challenging, but having a future plan can put young people on the road to success. Of course, that’s easier said than done — especially if students don’t know what they want to do after they graduate.

That’s why it is so important for parents to take an active role in the development of their child’s desired career path and back-up plans. Here, Sarah Strohbeck, a career readiness and counselor consultant with the Macomb Intermediate School District (MISD), offers insight on why having a career path is important for everyone, and how you can be more involved in the process.

Why it’s important 

According to Strohbeck, students who develop a career path while in high school tend to have the drive to excel in their schoolwork and do what needs to be done in order to graduate.

“When a student has a plan or vision for life after high school it serves as a huge source of motivation while the student is actually still in high school,” she says. “Thinking about their futures and being able to connect the need for good attendance, course performance and behavior can help a student get through those tough days in which they lack drive or do not see relevance to their course work.”

In addition, students with a post-high school plan also typically have better mental health outcomes while navigating their way through their last years of K-12 school.

“Students have less anxiety, depression and engage in less risky behaviors when they can see that there is a meaningful life full of great opportunity waiting for them once they cross the graduation stage and they will more likely be able to overcome tough times and think before they act because they know there are better days ahead,” she adds.

How to get involved 

Young people can start working on their career plan as early as preschool, and Strohbeck encourages parents to help their children start developing their career as early as possible.

“We want students as early as possible to make the connection to working hard in school will help them transition to whatever they want to become,” she says. “The earlier we expose students to goal setting, dreaming and planning the better.”

All school districts in Macomb County and beyond, offer counselors and resources to help students decide what they want to do, but parents can also help by simply talking to their children about what they want to be when they grow up and looking for opportunities for them to explore the areas that interest them.

“Parents should not worry as much about honing in on one specific plan for their child, but to create many opportunities for their child to job shadow, explore and see out a variety of career and post-secondary options,” Strohbeck explains.

They can also work to teach their children soft skills that are valuable in any career, such as communication or networking skills, and should encourage them to constantly learn and relearn.

And, if your child is struggling to find their path, parents should avoid panicking and instead stay positive and focus on motivating your child and exposing them to a variety of career options.

“Your student may take a path that is outside of the dream or vision you once had for them when they were little, but that does not mean they will not find success,” Strohbeck says, “Parents have to take a step back and not execute the plan for their child. Parents need to encourage and support their students, but truly we need our graduates to have more independence and learn how to navigate on their own.”

For more information on helping your child choose a career path, visit the MISD website.

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