How to help your child choose a career – careers advice for parents

How can parents help their child choose a career when they don’t know what they want to do? Careers expert Julie Poppleton offers some useful advice.

Don’t force the issue. Your children may already be trying (too) hard to please you.

Importantly, don’t make it a forced conversation as this could make your child disengage.

In my professional capacity as a Director of Careers, many students have confided in me that they feel pressurised into making decisions to please their parents and feel they have failed parents’ expectations. Some have said the expectation from parents has already set in by the time they are in Year 11. These children feel they ought to know exactly what they want to do by now – but they don’t.

Our children are living in different times… and are likely to change career more than ten times in their lives.

Some parents I’ve met initially show frustration in their children and tell me “they haven’t got a clue, they don’t know what they want to do yet.” For my generation and my parents’ generation, knowing what you wanted to be in life used to be something which was expected, with many only ever having one job for life, or being able to easily and quickly move from one job to the next.

The world of work and the labour market has changed significantly – and even more so since COVID-19. Current 2020 leavers are now expected to change careers 11 times on average!

Video tips: How to Find Your Passion and Make it Your Job

This is a great resource for you AND your child!

Emma Rosen put a lot of effort into trying to find a ‘perfect’ career. In fact, Emma tried 25 different careers before turning 25, through short-term work experience, shadowing, and just giving things a go. She completed the challenge, and finished all 25 placements before her 25th birthday.

Video tips: Why some of us don’t have one true calling

What do you want to be when you grow up? Career coach Emilie Wapnick celebrates the “multipotentialite” approach. She answers that dreaded question but explaining how not having one true calling can actually be a very positive attribute, and not one that you or your child should necessarily feel concerned about.

About Julie Poppleton

Julie Poppleton is a Director of Careers. She is a Level 7 Careers Leader and a Level 6 qualified Careers Practitioner. Her leadership responsibilities and expertise include Employer, Stakeholder and Community Partnership Engagement including parents and families. She sits on a Senior Leadership Team for a Secondary School in Staffordshire and her additional commitments include:
  • Vice Chair – Southern Skills Employers and Educators Board
  • Chair Staffordshire Careers Professionals Forum
  • Executive Board Member Tamworth & Lichfield District Chamber of Commerce
  • Member of the Staffordshire Education and Skills Strategic Group
  • Lead school for the Careers and Enterprise/Stoke and Staffs LEP Careers
  • Hub and member of the Steering Group Committee
  • Moderator for Inspired Teenager Plus
  • Careers peer awards reviewer for Careers and Enterprise Company


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