Helping your child work out what career paths to pursue

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Graphic showing crossroads with roadsigns saying "Career" and "Dream job"

There is a world of opportunity out there – but for many young people, narrowing down all the options can be a challenging task in itself.

We think the key is finding that sweet spot where skills and interests overlap before figuring out how this connects up with possible career paths.

In this guide, we explain how you and your child can use this approach to uncover future career options.

'A guide to helping your child figure out their dream job'

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First, take a look at this video (aimed at students) which summarises our step-by-step approach to working out what job to do:

If your child is struggling to put this into practice on their own, set aside some time to work through the following steps together:

1. Work out your child’s skills and interests

Sit down together with two pieces of A3 paper and a Sharpie.

On one piece of paper write down as many of your child’s interests as you can think of together. Use these questions as prompts for your child:

  • What hobbies do you have? What do you like to do in your spare time?
  • What extracurricular activities do you do?
  • If you could pick one thing to do right now, what would it be?
  • What would you do on your ideal weekend?

On the second sheet, write down as many of your child’s skills as you can think of, with these questions as prompts:

  • What are your favourite school subjects?
  • What are your personal qualities? E.g. are you a good listener? Do people come to you for advice?
  • In your most recent school report, what did your teachers tell you that you excelled at?
  • What things can you “just do”? E.g. cooking, coming up with ideas, art.
Notebook
Sit down together with paper and pens, ready to plan

2. Link industries to skills and interests

The next step is to find out about industries (or Career Zones as we call them at Success at School) and the jobs within them.

Take another sheet of A3 (you may need a few, depending on how big your handwriting is!)

Browse the Career Zones section of the Success at School website and write down those which catch you and your child’s eye because they contain roles which appeal to their skills and interests.

When you have a “short list” of industries that fit in with your child’s skills and interests, take a closer look. Write down jobs underneath the industry name and note the skills they involve (e.g. civil engineer – problem-solving etc) and how they connect with your child’s interests (e.g. VFX artist – watching films).

3. Identify 3 favourite jobs

Look through the list of jobs you have written down and pick 3 that really appeal to your child.

One way of doing this could be to go through all the roles and give them a rating out of 5, then pick those with the top rating and repeat the process to narrow them down to 3.

Once you have picked out your final 3 you can start looking in more detail at the different routes into these career paths.

4. Plan out career paths for these jobs

Take a separate sheet of A3 for each job and write the job title at the top of the sheet.

Use the Success at School site and the internet to research the steps needed to pursue these career paths and also the different ways into them. Have a look at our How to become… articles for detailed guides to entering a whole range of career paths.

Use these questions as prompts:

  • What qualifications are needed? This includes the subject (e.g. English, maths) and level (e.g. GCSE, A-level, degree).
  • What experience is required? Are there work experience programmes available through employers or will your child have to be proactive to get a placement?
  • Are there apprenticeships available?
  • Is there a university route into the profession?

A "next step" could be a visit to a careers fair or school/college

subject choices event

5. Write out the 3 “next steps” your child will take

Using step 4 to guide you, come up with some next steps your child can take to help them on their career journey.

What they do will depend on what stage of their education they’re at.

For example, they might commit to contacting employers to find out whether they can visit on work experience placement. Alternatively, they might decide to visit particular subject stalls at their school/college’s GCSE or A-level choices event.

Once they have completed these next steps, you should have another discussion together to work out the next set of steps.

Ask your child’s school/college careers advisor for guidance

Don’t forget, your child’s school has a careers leader – and potentially other careers advisors – who you can ask for help.

Your child is guaranteed at least one meeting with them before they reach the end of Year 11 and another before the end of Year 13.

Images: Lead image via Freepik, diary via Pxhere, careers fair by COD Newsroom via Flickr

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