How to Help Your High-Schooler Think About Careers

At a glance

  • Understanding his learning and thinking differences can help your child think about potential careers.

  • Your child’s interests can also give him direction as he thinks about careers.

  • Kids with learning and thinking differences need extra help planning their future.

Four years can go by fast. If your child has learning and thinking differences, you might wonder how you can help him get an edge in a tough job market. Just as your child needs extra help at school, he will need extra help planning his future. Here are five steps that can help get your teenager thinking about a possible career.

Work on self-awareness.

Your child may think his learning and thinking differences only apply to school. But it’s important for him to understand that these issues won’t go away after he gets a diploma. They may be with him for life. Having self-awareness and accepting himself is a great first step to help prepare for adult life. He may even discover that his issues give him other important life skills such as patience, determination and the ability to understand that others have their own challenges.

Explore and build interests.

Knowing which activities your child loves most can help him discover future career paths. Maybe he likes being outdoors, or working with younger children. Or perhaps he enjoys playing computer games and making friends online. If your child is less sure of his interests, he can try out a variety of activities. Art classes, music lessons, sports and other hobbies can help him learn what he enjoys and boost his confidence as he looks toward the future.

Learn the value of work.

Working isn’t just about making money. It’s important for your child to understand how a good job helps build a happy life, too. Show your child where you work and talk with him about your job. Explain its rewards and its challenges. Encourage him to talk to friends and family about their jobs, too. They may also be able to help find internships and volunteer work in a field that matters to him.

Build work skills.

Start him off by doing regular chores around the house, such as yard work and walking the dog. Then have him market his services to friends and neighbors—for pay. Or encourage and help him to get a part-time job. The opportunity to work early on will teach him the importance of arriving on time, solving problems and working well with others. These habits will stick with him and give him an edge when seeking jobs and building a career in the future.

Create a transition plan.

A is a strategy for helping your child move from high school to adult life. If your child has an Individualized Education Program (), discussions about transition will begin at age 14 or 15. At 16, transition services will be built into his IEP.

Even without an IEP, your child’s skills and interests will guide you and his school counselors to create a plan to prepare for the future. The plan should include educational and career goals for after high school. It will list ways your child can prepare for those goals in the next few years.

It’s important to make sure the goals he sets are realistic and spell out specific steps he’ll take to get there. Remember to keep real—but still high—expectations for your child. The more confident you are in his ability to succeed, the harder he’ll work to reach goals.

Key takeaways

  • Your child’s career goals should be ones he can reach.

  • Having even small jobs as a teen can build good work habits.

  • A transition plan can help your child reach career goals.

About the author

About the author

Victoria Scanlan Stefanakos is a writer and editor for many national publications.

Reviewed by

Reviewed by

Jenn Osen-Foss, MAT is an instructional coach, supporting teachers in using differentiated instruction, interventions, and co-planning.