Help Your Teen Choose a Career and Move Out

person's feet with arrows on ground pointing in different directions

As our little darlings enter their teen years, our job is to foster their independence and self-sufficiency. As parents, our ultimate goal is the same: to raise kids who will, eventually, venture out into the great unknown and leave us in much-deserved peace. The number of people ages 18-31 living in their parents’ home was a whopping 36 percent in 2012, according to the Pew Research Center. We find this number downright scary. The good news is, your teen most likely wants to strike out on his own just as much as you want him to go, so he’ll be interested in brainstorming ways to make that happen. Read on to find out how you can help develop independence in your teen and set everyone up for success:

Higher Education vs. Vocation

The first step in launching your fledgling’s journey into the world involves a bit of reflection. What is he interested in? Does he enjoy going to school, or was he ready to leave before high school was finished? Does she show aptitude for working with her hands, or is she more interested in refining her intellect? Ask these questions of your teenager to gauge where his interests are.

If your kid wants to attend a four-year college or university after high school, great. Now help him navigate the application process. Not every kid is cut out for four more years of school right out of high school, however, and that’s OK too. Help him look into certificate programs or career schools in his field of interest. Certificates and diplomas are available in a variety of areas, from gunsmithing and wedding planning to medical coding and billing to education and child care. If your teen has a heightened interest in taking care of animals, for example, then hop online and get more information on the veterinary assistant program at Penn Foster.

Volunteering and Giving Back

If your teen can’t identify a field he or she might be interested in pursuing, the next step is to get him or her involved in the community. Sit down and discuss what kinds of opportunities interest him or her. If she just doesn’t know what might be her calling, volunteering is a great way to expose her to things she might not have considered. Visit the American Red Cross for a variety of ways she can help, a guide to get started and a search engine that generates volunteering ideas based on your geographic location.

If he’s interested in a specific cause, search volunteer opportunities with a similar mission. For example, if he’s passionate about ending hunger in the community, check out Feeding America—the site provides comprehensive information on how he can spread the word and help in your own town. You never know, volunteering could set him up for a position in social work.

It’s not easy, but you can strike a balance between having patience with your teen and starting him on the path to adulthood..

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  • Sherri May 9, 2014, 3:21 pm

    Amy,

    Excellent article!

    I would add one important thing to foster independence: don’t go into debt for college or technical school. Too many kids are graduating from college with their 4-year degrees, but have a pile of debt equal to a house mortgage, and the payment to match. They end up moving back home just to pay the bill.

    We have to help them think through financing whatever further education, degree, or certificate program they want to pursue, and make sure they understand the long-term consequences of post-high-school education debt. Whatever their interests, we have to insist that the career and education hunt go along with the how-to-pay-for-it hunt; scholarships, work, work-study, and grants. With financial aid usually comes an expected family contribution, so we have to take that into account as well.

    My son is 19 and about to embark on post-high-school education, training or work. My biggest fear is debt. My mom keeps asking what college he’s going to, and I’m answering none until we figure out what he wants to do and how to pay for it. She’s not happy about it, but I told her if she wants him in college so badly, she’d better fork over the money.

    Our parents didn’t pay for my sister and I to go to college. We put ourselves through. We worked, got grants, scholarships and loans. But that was over 30 years ago, when college costs were affordable. You could pay your own way without a ton of help or a ton of debt. Student loans were simple interest loans and didn’t even begin to accrue interest until 6 months after graduation. Not anymore. Student loans are another racket banks are using to get rich.

    My first question to my son these days is, “How are you going to pay for that?”
    Sherri´s last blog post ..Having money can make you cruel, and how to fix it

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    • Amy LeForge May 11, 2014, 9:09 pm

      Sherri, keeping our boys out of debt after high school is a HUGE priority. I’ve been strenuously opposed to any kind of loans precisely because of what you said: a debt the size of a mortgage. Sheesh.

      The Mercenary is considering a Gap Year before he goes to a college, and then he’s more or less planning on a community college. Scholarships are much less competitive for transfer students and we can afford to pay for community college in cash. I’ve also been looking into applying for scholarships.

      With TechnoBoy though, it looks like the only path before him is a 4-year University. He wants to play soccer. He’s really good at it. Community colleges locally don’t have soccer teams, and he can’t afford to miss 2 years of play like that. So, loans may indeed be in our future.

      Sigh.

      He has already agreed to work closely with me on scholarship applications, and my plan is that if we have to get loans for him I’ll work my hardest to earn that money so he can pay it back ASAP. I’m already working on that, and maybe 2 years from now I’ll be earning enough with my business to pay cash. That’s the plan, anyhow. Either way, I’m not leaving him with debt if I can avoid it. Worst case: I go back into the workforce and all of my earnings go toward college degrees for a long time.

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      • Sherri May 12, 2014, 1:31 pm

        Does TechnoBoy have any college soccer recruiters looking at him? There are soccer sports scholarships that pay most if not all costs. Best of luck.
        Sherri´s last blog post ..Having money can make you cruel, and how to fix it

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        • Amy LeForge May 19, 2014, 8:50 pm

          No, not yet Sherri. This is the first year he’s participated in a more competitive setting, and we went with the lower tier team on purpose because we wanted to get some bearings. He’s going to try out for the top level team next month and we’ll see what happens. Only 2% of kids get college scholarships for athletics on average, so while we’d love that and it’s terrific, we’re not setting any expectations for that. It’s more important to Hubby and I that he enjoy what he’s doing and make some good memories…he’s only going to be a kid this one time. We’ll roll with whatever happens. 🙂

          Reply
  • Jeremiah Gibbs May 10, 2014, 3:13 pm

    This is a really great start for teens. I work in vocational discernment for college students. The following is the developing outlive for my upcoming book on career selection. I hope you and your readers find it helpful.

    http://jeremiahgibbs.com/explore-calling/
    Jeremiah Gibbs´s last blog post ..What Am I Called To Do? (Part 8): You Can’t Fix The Plumbing With A Basketball

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  • Joe May 25, 2016, 3:13 am

    Really like that you highlight the vocational training route. So often I see young adults opting for higher education and later on failing because it simply wasn’t for them. Learning a trade is something that should be more actively encouraged in school and in society!
    Joe´s last blog post ..Yavapai College Gunsmithing School

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