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Helping High Schoolers Find Their Career Paths

June 23–27, 2014   |   Vol. 120, Programs 1–5

Are you wondering how to help your child find their true vocation? This week on Home School Heartbeat, Mike Smith is joined by one of HSLDA’s high school consultants, Becky Cooke, to share ways for you to help your children discover their own interests and develop those interests into careers.

“Parents and their teens can talk together on possible volunteer projects, internships, or job shadowing to participate in during the high school years. These opportunities will give teens real-life experience in careers they think they want to pursue.”—Becky Cooke

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By what age should teens start deciding what they want to be when they grow up? One of HSLDA’s high school consultants, Becky Cooke, shares her experience with host Mike Smith on today’s Home School Heartbeat.

Mike Smith: Today Becky Cooke, one of HSLDA’s high school consultants, joins us on the program. Welcome, Becky!

Becky Cooke: Well, hi, Mike, I’m glad to be here with you.

Mike: Well, Becky, I think that almost all homeschooling parents wonder when their high school students should start thinking about career plans. How early should students begin thinking ahead, or is it really important to start that process early?

Becky: Well, Mike, 9th grade is not too soon to talk to teens about what they want to do after high school. Helping teens to answer this question will provide parents with an idea of the type of high school track to implement. They can choose the types of courses that will be most beneficial to prepare that teen for the next step after high school graduation. Since most teens in the early years of high school don’t have a clear idea what they want to do after graduation, HSLDA high school consultants encourage parents to plan as if their teens will attend college. If high school marks the end of the teen’s formal education, parents will have prepared them well for whatever paths are chosen. However, if college is not taken into account, and the teens change their mind in the latter years of high school, a high school program may fall short of meeting college admission requirements.

Mike: Well, Becky, this is a valuable perspective for both parents and students. Now next time, we’ll see ways students can explore how their skills and talents may help them discover potential career paths. But until then, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Becky, can you offer any good strategies for high schoolers to match their skills and talents with potential vocations?

Becky Cooke: Well, yes, Mike. Parents and their teens can talk together on possible volunteer projects, internships, or job shadowing to participate in during the high school years. These opportunities will give teens real-life experience in careers they think they want to pursue. For example, my daughter talked about going into a medical field but was unsure whether she wanted to pursue nursing or be a neonatal physician. She approached a neonatologist in our church who invited my daughter to shadow her during one of her shifts. This provided my daughter time to talk to and watch doctors, nurses, and nurse practitioners, gaining valuable information that helped her to decide to major in nursing. Part-time jobs are another way of learning new skills or honing talents teens already have. Or, if a teen shows an entrepreneur aptitude, the parents can encourage him or her to take an idea and grow it into a home business. Maybe it’ll become a full-time career!

Mike: Becky, this advice is very insightful, and I know many of our listeners will find it helpful. In the next program, we’ll see how a high schooler can prepare for a career in an area that’s more difficult to plan for, such as art or writing. And until then, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Becky, for promising artists, writers, and others, how can they prepare in advance to have at least a sustainable career when future success is uncertain?

Becky Cooke: Well, Mike, students will benefit from talking to people currently in these fields for advice relating to education, types of courses to take in high school, and opportunities to take advantage of to further their abilities. For instance, an aspiring artist may wish to seek out a mentorship arrangement with a local professional artist, or participate in a study program offered in their area of interest. A teen will want to consider if he will be able to earn a living or even support his family by applying his art full time. Often artists, musicians, writers have a steady income-generating job in a related field while pursuing their passion. Therefore, that will determine what education track will be necessary after high school. A talented artist may find that she can teach art in a school, which necessitates a college degree, as well as have a studio where she gives art lessons, lectures, and organizes art shows. So there are many avenues available to students in the arts.

Mike: Well, these are encouraging words, Becky. Next time we’ll see how parents can help their high schoolers who may not know what they want to do after graduation. And until then, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Becky, do you have advice for parents and their high schoolers who may not know what they want to do after graduation?

Becky Cooke: Oh, yeah! A parent can teach a career development course and include components such as researching careers, interviewing people working in those types of jobs, learning what education is necessary to be marketable, creating a resume, and then honing interview skills. Teens often will develop an interest by taking courses in a particular subject area. Or, if they’ve always wanted to experience something, a parent can provide such opportunities during high school. Maybe a teen loves flying and wants to be a pilot. If the budget allows, he can take flying lessons or participate in the Civil Air Patrol, where he will soon determine if this is a passing interest or one to pursue as a career. There are a number of career aptitude tests available that can be very helpful to direct teens to majors in college as well as to careers. We have a list of providers on our high school website in the testing section. The tests are taken online, and the results are sent to the student upon completion of the test.

Mike: Becky, this is great. It will give many of our listeners the confidence they need to begin making a game plan. On our next program, we’ll hear about some great career preparation resources for high schoolers. And until then, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Becky, what resources do you recommend to help high schoolers prepare and plan for potential careers?

Becky Cooke: Well, teens can take advantage of career or job fairs in their community. These are places where they can gather information on what types of jobs are available, and necessary education and requirements for applicants, suitable majors to pursue in college (or if college is even necessary), and types of skills teens can be acquiring now. Career assessments are informative for teens to discover what types of workplaces are best suited to their personality. Knowing if they are short-range or long-range thinkers will be valuable in considering the jobs available in their areas of interest. Are they team players, or tend to be more independent self-motivated workers? Parents are great resources because they know their teens and have much life experience that can be applied in answering these questions. The HSLDA Homeschooling through High School website has many additional resources for parents and teens to access, whether families are thinking about college, the marketplace, or the military.

Mike: Well, thank you so much for joining us this week, Becky. I know our listeners have benefited tremendously from this week’s topic. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Becky Cooke

Becky Cooke and her husband Jim homeschooled their three children from kindergarten until college using an eclectic assortment of teaching resources. She enjoys using these same skills to equip parents to successfully teach their children through the high school years and to encourage them to enjoy doing so.

After sending her children off to university, Becky helped develop HSLDA’s Homeschooling Thru High School program including its high school website. She brings a wealth of experience and friendly advice to share with families who are navigating these challenging, yet exciting years. In her “spare” time, she edits books, articles, and magazines for several authors and publishers, is active in Precepts upon Precepts Bible Study, and mentors international collegiate women studying in the Washington, D.C. area. She also serves on the board of Breakthrough Intercessors Prayer Ministry.

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