Fostering curiosity – early career conversations

September 08, 2017

You and your son/daughter do not need to worry about making one big career decision. Managing your career is a life-long journey.

As a parent, you can only be yourself but with more knowledge and skill gained specifically to coach your son or daughter as they embark on a journey of exploration with you. This exploration will require your willingness to learn new skills or transfer skills you already have, into a home setting. It will also mean you allocating time, energy and patience to help your son or daughter get a great start in life and work.

Your son or daughter’s pursuit of a career is a journey that may, at crucial points, require them to have the confidence to go it alone! You can’t save your son/ daughter from making their own mistakes but you can help to develop their confidence and share your own thoughts, feelings and experiences which will inspire your children to make choices of their own.

As a parent coach, you are not expected to have all the answers or to “fix” things. Your aim is to foster a trusting relationship.

In preparation, one of the first things parents can do is cultivate an inquiring mind in themselves and their offspring, and learn to ask good questions with a positive intention behind them. This means not making assumptions but fostering curiosity.

The first career conversations may not be about specific careers at all, but about parents actively listening and offering encouragement and praise to their young people.

Many conversations that are career related may not be recognised as such. These may take place sitting around a kitchen table, in the car or waiting for a bus. The conversation may be about TV programmes, books, music, websites or sports.  However, it is up to the parent to question and probe into likes and dislikes and what their son/daughter considers to be important. Connections to career may not be immediately clear, however, but the foundations and building blocks of self- knowledge will have been laid down.

These early conversations are more about nurturing the kind of mindset that focuses on growth and learning, trying new things, embracing change, finding solutions. It is about knowing that changing decisions or making mistakes along a career path is okay and that what is learned as a result is significant. In my experience, some young people have decided on their career path from an early age but when their qualifications don’t match their aspirations they are often bitterly disappointed. A young person who has been helped to take time to learn about themselves will have more options and choices, and a backup plan.

We are all curious about what the future may hold for our children. However, career choices are based on what the young person’s skills, interests, values, personality and beliefs are.  If you don’t know, then you should get curious because these elements hold the key to unlocking your young person’s potential.

We do not advocate being a pushy parent or turning your child into a “project”. Readiness to engage and involve yourself in your child’s career choices is a decision you and your child need to make together.  One parent said, “It’s not what careers are available that is important but the ‘why’ your child wants to do what they want to do and ‘how’ they approach achieving it.”

From our research, we know that readiness on the part of a parent and of their sons/daughters to start a conversation about a future career can be a major issue. But this can be mismatched in terms of timing or not recognised at all. We will launch our website in September with a readiness questionnaire for both parents and young people, with helpful ideas of what you may need to change or learn together to make sure you both have the skills and mindset you need to embark on a journey of exploration and curious inquiry together.