How you can help your teen with career decisions

Career decision-making can be a scary time for many teens.  Usually this is a combination of not knowing enough about career possibilities and being scared of making the ‘wrong’ decision that they’ll then be ‘stuck with for life’.  It’s understandable many prefer to avoid thinking about it at all!

Some good messages to help reduce the pressure:

A career is a life-long journey, your first job or training course is just the first step.

Finding your fit is more important than ‘following your passion’ – especially if you don’t know what you are passionate about!  Your first job might not be your dream job, but you never know where it might lead.

Keep an open mind and look beyond the obvious.  There are hundreds of ‘hidden’ jobs and career pathways that many people have never heard of.  Take the pressure away from trying to pick a certain job straight off by thinking about what kinds of industries they might be interested in and start exploring job options from there.

If you leave school before Year 13 for a job or training course you are not a high school dropout.  Always have your next step in place before you leave your current position – as long as you have something to go on to, you will be fine.

You don’t need to have your whole life planned out.  If you have a clear idea or direction to head it helps a lot with school subject choices and planning.  If you’re not sure, start exploring now so you can at least get your next step in place.

Not all high paying jobs or successful career paths need a university degree, but learning doesn’t end with school.

Tips for Parents and Whānau

  • Ask your teen if they have any ideas about what they might like to do (take them seriously even if you think it’s crazy) and get serious about exploring what they need to do to get there – both online research and by talking to people in the industry. This will either put them off their crazy idea or help you both see how you could actually make it happen and what you need to do to get there.


  • Create opportunities for your teen to explore career possibilities. Identifying what they don’t want to do is just as important as what they do.  If your teen has no clues, get them to start by taking an online test to try and narrow down some ideas (e.g.  Ask around for opportunities for your teen to go into your/your friend/whānau member’s workplace to have a look around and see what they do.


  • Help your teen identify their strengths and what kind of work environment they might enjoy – are they more of an indoor or outdoor person (or both)?  Which school subjects are they best at or enjoy the most?  Do they prefer hands-on activities, physical activities or are they more of a ‘thinker’ than a ‘doer’?   Are they a social butterfly or someone who would prefer not to be dealing with people all day?   Do they mind getting dirty or are they more of a dress-up kind of person?


  • Help prepare them for life beyond school. If they can’t cook, clean, do their laundry, drive, know how to use public transport or budget, now is the time to start teaching them so they are able to function in the adult world.  Before they leave school they will need a bank account, an IRD number and ideally at least a restricted driver licence.  See Work Readiness Checklist.


  • Encourage them to get some work experience. Both paid and volunteer work helps develop employability skills and makes sure the workplace isn’t a shock when they get their first ‘real’ job!


  • Try to be open-minded and understand they might have different ideas to you about what they want from their life.  This can be difficult when there is a family history of certain career paths or where financial needs or family obligations come first.  If there is real conflict, is there a way to find a compromise (e.g. combining work or caregiving with study; or making space to pursue a passion through hobbies rather than work?)

Useful Resources and Next Steps – Explore further for up-to-date career advice sourced locally, right here in the Waikato!