How can I help my child to make the correct career choice?

A few tips for parents to ascertain that your child makes an informed career choice.

• When you are seeking professional help from an Educational Psychologist make sure that the person is trained and does indeed have the required qualifications.  Make sure that the Psychologist has a PS-number (HPCSA registration number) and a PR-number (Practice number).  The PR-number is essential if you need to be reimbursed by a medical fund.  Take note however that not all medical funds pay for a career choice assessment.  Feel free to contact your own medical fund to ascertain that payment to this regard will be done.

• Try to realise that your child is his/her own person, a true individual with his/her own dreams and aspirations.  It is for obvious reasons not recommended that a parent tries to accomplish his/her dreams and aspirations through their child and expect from him/her to do what the parent never could or to want the child to become what the parent always wanted to become but couldn’t. Every child has his/her own path to follow and he/she needs your support.

• Become aware of your child’s interests, what his/her personality is all about, what is important to him/her, what frustrates him/her, what his/her strong areas and weaknesses are, etc.  Share this information with your child.  This might help or simplify his/her decision making process when it comes to career choices.

• Encourage open communication and discussions about possible careers between you and your child.

• Encourage your child to gather “career information” e.g. How to prepare for job interview; Do searches on the internet; attend Career Expos; visit private practices of professionals to see what their jobs really entails, companies or businesses that your child is interested in; let them interview people in careers in the field of interest; visit Open Days at Universities and tertiary institutions; be assessed by an Educational Psychologist and read books on specific careers or do job shadowing.

• Share incidental career information with each other e.g. if you/your child has read an interesting article on careers in the newspaper, saw a career related TV programme or saw advertisements about Career Expos, tell one another and discuss it.

• Make use of contacts and your networking skills e.g. when your child is interested in becoming a lawyer and you know someone in the field – make an appointment, introduce the two parties and let your network know about your and your child’s questions and aspirations.  In that way you create an opportunity for your child to ask questions and to do his/her own career research.

• Realise that the responsibility for your child’s future, career choices and ultimate success is on your child’s shoulders and not on yours as the parent.  Choices cannot be made for him/her.  Unconditional love, acceptance and support are needed.

• Parents can support each other in the “career choice process”.  Parents can share interesting information with each other or create lift-clubs to take children to Open Days at he Universities or Career Expos.

• When your child is making his career choice, encourage him/her to do research into related fields.  Because of a ever changing work force, we all are encouraged to have a plan A, B, C and D in place for if and in case plan A falls apart e.g. retrenchments, and also to manage chances and opportunities that would/could come their way through life.  Recent studies emphasize the fact that people occupies may different occupations/careers, throughout life, and not like previously have only one career.

• Make sure that your child’s subject choices in Gr 9 are already in line with his/her future career or study field.  Career / subject choice assessments done by Educational Psychologists at Psychology Worx can be explored from Grade 8.  You don’t have to wait until Grade 9 or Grade 11.

• When your child is struggling with a subject at school – or you pick up any barriers or problems that may influence his/her performance at school – don’t wait.  Find help and support from trained professionals.  Educational Psychologists at Psychology Worx can help explore emotional, behavioural, scholastic, learning and other relevant barriers with you and your child. 

• Find out and do research in terms of the financial implications of having a child at University on any tertiary institution.  Get information regarding scholarships, student loans, etc.  Discuss the financial implications with all the relevant parties involved to limit unnecessary uncertainty, conflict, tension and frustration. 

• During the career search, do reality checking frequently.  Be careful not to have unrealistic expectations that can lead to disappointment and disillusionment.

• What does a career assessment at Psychology Worx entail? Before any assessment an interview with the parents is crucial, even with students, because parents provide important information about their child and his/her context.  This interview is followed by the assessment.  It is very important to remember that the adolescent/student and his/her work speed guide the assessment process.   After the assessment the information gathered will be analysed, interpreted and career information will be gathered for the specific adolescent/student.  The assessment process is concluded with a feedback session where the findings will then be given to the parents and the adolescent/student.

• Some tertiary students feel as if they are standing with their backs against the wall because of a wrong career/study course that was made. Gaining information and getting “un-stuck” could be major goals for them, for which a career assessment could be a good option.  Psychology Worx provides career discussions and assessments for tertiary students. 

• Please remember that the career search process does not stop here.  Continuous research and exploration many times continue from here as to find the opportunities and chances that the adolescent/student could explore further and engage in.

• Enjoy this explorative journey with your child!