Whether your kids are heading towards secondary school, GCSE choices, picking A-levels or considering university, it pays to think about future career paths. From helping with goal setting to fostering motivation and passion, here’s why career exploration is good for kids.
What Is career exploration?
Career exploration is the process of learning about yourself and different careers to find a profession that is a good fit. For kids, it involves identifying interests, skills, values, passions and personality traits and exploring careers matching those factors. It can also help to inspire their entrepreneurial side and help them think of ways to make money as a kid.
Why is career exploration important?
There are a range of reasons why career exploration is important. On a practical level, ensuring they choose the right subjects is crucial if your child wants to be on a particular career path.
For example, if your child wants to create video games they will need maths at a higher level. Sciences and geography are key if they want to work with climate and environmental issues. Knowing what they want to do, even in a vague way, enables you to help them map the pathway ahead with suitable courses and life skills and experiences.
If you’re concerned about directing children towards a particular career too early, remember that talking about careers is not about pinpointing a specific job but about broadening horizons, raising aspirations, and giving kids a wide range of experiences of the world of work.
Pro tip: How to support kids with career exploration
You can support kids' career exploration by talking about what they're interested in and considering what they are good at. This will help you get a better understanding of what kind of careers might suit them.
What is the right age for career planning?
Interestingly, a study published in partnership with TES and the NAHT (National Association of Head Teachers) asked primary teachers why introducing children to the world of work was important and found that 68% of teachers believe children should be learning about the world of work in the early years of primary school. Their findings suggest that learning about the real world increased motivation to work hard, brought more relevance to learning, and broadened aspirations.
That said, only you know when your child is ready to talk about what they want to be when they’re older. It can help to link their current passions and interests to careers. If they love building in Minecraft, talk about architecture and gaming careers; if they love reading and writing, perhaps journalism. If they’re interested in the natural world, speak about environmental jobs.
Tips for how to help your kids with career planning
1. Brainstorm their interests and likes
What are your kids passionate about? If they love meeting and talking to people, what do they love about it? Is it finding out about others, empathy or something else? If they love trains and cars, what drives their passion? How about new places and exploring? Finding out their interests can help show them that they can link their passions to careers.
2. Talk to them about their values
Explain to your kids that values are the things that are important to us in life. They guide our behaviour and help us make decisions. So, for example, do they want to make a difference in the world? Do they want to help people worse off than them? Are they willing to stand up for what they believe in? These values can give you an idea of possible career ideas.
3. Be open to new career ideas
According to the British Council, as many as 65 percent of today's students will be employed in jobs that don't yet exist. Just 15 years ago, careers such as app developers, robotics engineers, and AI analysts didn't exist. While that sounds daunting, it's even more of a reason to focus on your child's passions and interests and build skills such as creativity and critical thinking, as these will always link to careers.
4. Widen your knowledge of careers
While everyone knows about traditional jobs such as teacher, lawyer, police officer, nurse, vet and more, there are many jobs out there that you may not even know exist. For instance, an ethical hacker is a computer specialist who attempts to gain access to accounts using different hacking methods. Or food stylists, who make the food in adverts look delicious, and video game writers who create the stories for games. Explore careers on the National Careers Service site to find out what's out there.
5. Link industries to subjects and interests
Kids sometimes need help understanding how interests and subjects link to careers and industries, so help them join the dots. For instance, if they love trains, explain the many jobs in this field, from design to engineering, and why they need to study science, maths, and computing. If they love fashion, tell them about everything from textiles to fashion design, requiring art and marketing skills.
6. Let them meet people with different jobs
A recent study found that 90% of primary school teachers felt that engaging children with employers/employees and the world of work significantly impacts their academic achievement and goals. To help your child, introduce them to the wide world of careers – and ask people you know to tell them about their jobs.
7. Teach financial management
Teaching your child financial management can help them identify career goals and narrow down career options to help them reach their financial goals. Financial management can also help them make more informed career decisions. For example, if they know they want to run their own business and work for themselves, they'll have to be good with money.
8. Watch movies and TV shows about different careers
While not always wholly accurate, this is a fun way to learn about different careers and the challenges and rewards of each one. Shows about crime and law, medicine and animals, and documentaries about history and science can all inspire children into various careers.
9. Make career research fun
Research a range of careers online, and see who can find the highest-paid career, the most unusual career (Marmite taster or LEGO builder anyone?), or a career located in Antarctica and another on the beach. Make it engaging to inspire your child to look up as much as possible so that they can see the wealth of jobs out there.
10. Expose kids to different work environments
The world of work has changed. There's office working, remote working and hybrid working. This means that the way your child wants to work is no longer defined by their career of choice (with notable exceptions). Tell them about different ways of working, varying work environments and the world of entrepreneurship.
Related: Entrepreneurship for kids
11. Suggest volunteering
When kids volunteer, they see firsthand what different careers are like. They learn about the different tasks and responsibilities involved in each job and get to meet people who work in those careers. This can help them better understand what careers entail and whether they would be a good fit for them.
12. Inspire them with books
It can be challenging for kids to see how they can find a career in something that feels so far out of reach, so inspire them with books and memoirs. For every profession, there is an inspiring memoir. For example, try Never Work With Animals if they want to be a vet. Or if they want to be an entrepreneur, Nike ShoeDog, or maybe a writer, On Writing by Stephen King.
The different phases of career planning for kids
Kids have an ever-changing range of interests and some last longer than others. Whatever their passion, encourage them to investigate it further and find out more. If they like art, show them different forms and visit museums. If they are interested in making things use YouTube to further their interests, and for food, get them experimenting in the kitchen.
Starting career exploration early doesn’t mean making your child pick a job or career path. It’s about inspiring them to understand the world of work and see what’s out there for them. Not only does this help widen their worldview, but it also lets them know that they can affect the world in any area they choose.
Awareness is about understanding if a career path is a good fit for you and the reality of the work. For instance, your child may say they want to be a TikTok influencer or gamer, but how easy is it to get these jobs, and how much is the average pay? Likewise, they may want to do a particular career, such as a vet, but are they aware of the standard of knowledge needed and the length of study it entails? This is where information is power; encourage them to increase their awareness by researching what they want to do and why.
Without career exploration, it’s hard for Year 9, 11, and 13 students to decide on their future. Some common pitfalls include choosing subjects without knowing where they lead and not taking a subject they need for a specific career or university path. Whether they know exactly what they want to do or only have a vague idea, help them plan their path with the help of sites such as UCAS and the National Careers Service.
How can GoHenry help?
Kids learn best by doing. So show them how to manage money for themselves with a GoHenry prepaid kids debit card. Available for kids aged 6-18, GoHenry is a safe way for kids to practise their financial literacy skills. There’s a companion app for parents which allows you to pay pocket money, monitor spending, top up when necessary and create saving pots. Money Missions is our in-app financial education tool, allowing your kids to explore various financial topics, from budgeting to saving and more.