How to choose the right job for your teen’s strengths

Your teen’s passions and interests can help when choosing a job. It’s important for the job to be a good fit.

Finding work that empowers your teen after high school is important. But the right vocation is never one-size-fits-all. Your teen’s particular learning and thinking differences may make some jobs a better fit than others. Here are some things for you and your teen to think about as you look for jobs that play to their strengths.

If your teen has an (IEP), it should include a transition plan. One purpose of this plan is to help your teen clarify their strengths, challenges, and interests and think about how those will apply to work. Your teen will want to explore the topics below with their IEP team.

Try vocational testing.

Vocational testing can identify your teen’s skills, strengths, and weaknesses. It can also help them discover what fields and roles might interest him. These assessments take into account your teen’s long-term goals in order to find the best fit.

If your teen has an IEP, vocational testing should be part of their . If they don’t have an IEP, their high school or a local community college may offer this kind of testing.

Help your teen pinpoint their passions and interests.

Ask your teen to look at, say, five different job possibilities. Which would they like to pursue, and why? If your teen loves food and cooking, the culinary field could be a good fit. If they tinker with mechanical projects for fun, there are many trades that could use your teen’s “engineering genius.”

Understand the work setting.

Your teen will want to choose a work environment that matches their needs. For instance, a teen with may have had trouble sitting still in school. But they might be engaged when working at a computer. A job in computer technology might be worth a try, especially if it combines computer work with walking around an office.

“If your teen loves food and cooking, the culinary field could be a good fit. If they tinker with mechanical projects for fun, there are many trades that could use your teen’s ‘engineering genius.’”

Consider size.

A small “mom and pop” company with fewer employees might appear like a comfortable fit at first glance. But a larger firm may work better for someone with learning and thinking differences. Employees at big companies tend to specialize, often working on one job at a time rather than floating through different tasks. That would allow your teen to find and focus on a task they enjoy and are good at.

Know the full range of a trade.

Your teen may want to ask someone working in their field of interest about the full range of jobs and tasks it offers. If your teen has an IEP transition plan, they may be able to gather this information from employers in your community.

Research the requirements.

Most trades and careers require certifications, an associate’s degree, or an apprenticeship. Your teen will want to understand what is required and decide if they’re willing to work toward that. Be sure there are openings for those jobs as well. There’s no sense being trained for a field with little or no work. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupation Finder offers helpful comparisons of growing fields.

If your teen has learning and thinking differences, it’s important for both you and your child to be realistic about job prospects. Taking small, strategic steps can keep them from feeling overwhelmed.

Start by helping your teen shadow people working in a trade they are excited about. Then, they can find an entry-level position that fits their abilities. Doing a good job will help your teen grow and advance, with support from their supervisors.


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