Saturday, July 28, 2012

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Can a 13 year old make career decisions?

 As schools begin to ask high school freshmen what they want to major in for high school, we are all asking if a 13 year old can really make a career decision.  It seems a bit hit and miss, but I do think that a 13 year old may be able to make career decision if we let them.   When I was about 7 I loved to read so much that I declared I wanted to be a writer and illustrate my own stories. Over time, this changed to scientist, to architect, to lawyer, to artist, to decorator, and back full circle to someone who wants writing and illustrating to be a large part of what I do.  

I got off track because I allowed other people to define me (as children do).  People would say things like "writers don't make a lot of money, I bet you're smart enough to be a scientist".  Others would say, there aren't a lot of girls in science, but you draw nice building, you might be an architect".  Someone else would say, "you argue so well you should be a lawyer".  Each time I had this conversation, my personal goals shifted.  This happens all the time to kids.  It's no wonder they can't make up their mind about what they do.  It takes time to make it back to what was originally on their heart.  

I'm not saying that kids know exactly what they want to do.  They may not even be aware of their future calling.  What kid says I want to be a social worker?  They may only know that they want to help people, or to talk to people.  Of course we won't push the child to get a social work degree online or
start looking for social work jobs, but instead of redirecting that child, to something that may make more sense to us,  we should dig deeper, make suggestions, find ways for the to try out what they have shown interested in. 

As a parent, I must say, I too may have pushed my kids too hard in finding out what they wanted to be when they grew up.  The second my son showed a propensity for building computers and writing HTML code, we dubbed him a computer expert and programmer.  We totally neglected the fact that he's been drawing since he was 5 years old. Fortunately, we encouraged him to try a little bit of everything that interested him, and he was able to zero in on computer art, a combination of what he loves and what he is good at. 

It won't be easy for a 13 year old to make a decision in time for high school that will get them ready for studies for a future career unless the lower grades offer a full sampling of different career choices to give children a good  idea of what different careers look like and feel like.  Even then they may change their mind.  How many college students, for example, change majors three or four times, thinking they may want to be a doctor until they realize they can't stomach biology?  That will surely happen to high school students who are in programs geared toward a future career, but this can be a good thing.  I would rather the kid try different things and falter a bit in high school, then spend an extra 3 semesters in college because they couldn't settle on a major.



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