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If you’re like me, you’re doing your best to raise kids of good character – who will also eventually leave the house and not be dependent on your paycheck someday. But how can we help our teens find the right path for them to have success? I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on this in my job of helping students preparing for the future, and as a parent.

Here are some things I’m doing to help my kids identify their career path.

Talk about your teen’s strengths

Have you noticed how it is so much easier to remember something bad someone said to you, and much more difficult to remember the good? (Brain research proves it’s true.) Our children remember the negative aspects of themselves. They may need some reminders of all they do well.

So tell your teen what they are good at! Can they quickly see how things “work” and make quick fixes around the house? Are they a storyteller? A leader (seen by the trouble they make with siblings!)? Do they see the emotions in others, and immediately share empathy?

Then, make a connection. “Wow, your ability to see and understand other people’s emotions would make you a great caregiver. You might be a great nurse or therapist.”

Connect to something they’re passionate about

Often times, we ask our kids, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” But Google’s Jaime Casap offers a new question to identify what students are interested in: What problem do you want to solve? Students today are so much more aware. They are concerned about climate change, racial inequality, and violent conflicts leading to refugee crises. What bothers your child?

Then, Jaime recommends asking: How do you want to solve that problem, like climate change? He says our first instinct is to put that student in science classes, but maybe their gift is in photography. Perhaps they can work for a media outlet to bring awareness to what climate change really looks like, which may lead to legislated, lasting change.

Ask about interest inventories

A lot of middle and high schools will provide a career “quiz” at some point. This career interest inventory allows a student to answer questions about their talents and interests, and then be matched with possible career options. If your child doesn’t remember doing this (my 7th grader can tell me many details of his day, but I don’t understand how he can’t remember a single academic thing he learned), ask your child’s school counselor. They can share whether your child has participated in this experience or not – and hopefully share the results.

But if it hasn’t happened at school, or you can’t get results: know that you can have your child take a free career interest inventory online. is a free U.S. Department of Labor career exploration resource available to anyone!

Check out in-demand jobs is a joint website provided by the Nebraska Departments of Labor, Education, and Economic Development. It always has a “Top 10 Jobs by Demand” list (and they rarely change). These are high wage, high demand, and high skill (meaning some type of training or higher education is needed) jobs that we are desperate to fill in Nebraska. Why not check out a career that offers great job security?

Encourage teen to job shadow

Job shadowing, or spending a day following and observing someone at work, is majorly underrated. What better way to know if your veterinary-inspired teen really wants to care for cute and cuddly pets, when they may also experience the death of an animal.

Going on a job shadow can sound intimidating (adults they don’t know?!), so get your teen excited about it by sharing this video. Then, they’ll likely need your help with making the ask of the person they’ll shadow – what a great opportunity to build a new skill! Finally, if they enjoyed their experience, take it a next step by encouraging them to volunteer or work at the company/organization where they shadowed, or another place like it, if possible.

I hope this helps you feel a bit more confident in providing direction to your child’s career path. If you’re looking for more guidance, ask these 5 questions to get your student talking about their future.