Helping Teens Prepare for a Career

How can I help my adolescent son settle on a vocation and make wise plans for the future? He seems to be thinking more seriously about career choices and wondering what God wants him to do with his life.

Your first step should be to expose him to as many different occupations as possible. Give him a taste of the rich variety of career choices available to young people today. Cultivate an awareness of and a sensitivity to his personal interests and inclinations and do what you can to nurture and develop them. Help him discover his natural, God-given talents, abilities and strengths. If he’s fascinated with medicine, set up a time for him to talk with your physician about the demands and rewards of this profession. If he’s mechanically inclined, arrange to have him spend a day hanging around the local garage. The same approach can be taken with almost any type of career he might find attractive.

As you move through this process, make a conscious effort to avoid projecting your personal expectations on your son. Children don’t always follow in their parents’ footsteps. If you’re an accountant but your child has difficulty with math, don’t push him into a career that would make him miserable. If you’re an attorney but your son wants to be an artist, don’t try to make him force his “square peg” temperament into the “round hole” of a legal career.

It’s also important to help your adolescent think of vocation and career in spiritual terms. For a Christian, work is about something more than just making money. Theologically speaking, it’s an expression of human creativity, which in turn is a reflection of the creativity of God. Viewed from this angle, a believer’s vocation becomes a vehicle for joyous and fulfilling service to the Lord and other people. The Bible makes this clear in a number of memorable passages. We are told, for instance, that God has created each one of us according to a unique design (Psalm 139:13-14); that He has gifted us with special talents intended for specific purposes (Romans 12:6-8); that faithfulness to God requires that we develop, sharpen and hone these abilities with an eye to excellence (Proverbs 22:29); and that our work in this world is simply a preliminary and preparatory stage in our training for a much higher calling (Matthew 5:16).

Once a clear sense of interest, desire or direction begins to emerge in your son’s thinking about these subjects, find ways to help him access the guidance, education and training he needs in order to pursue his career objective effectively. You should be able to get some assistance in this area from your local school’s professional guidance counselor. Encourage your son to pray about his future and seek out career-testing services that can help him determine what job options best fit his personality, temperament and interests. These tests often help young adults hone in on their special talents, if they haven’t already done so, and they can also confirm whether a certain career choice is a logical path. Adolescents who are somewhat aimless may find that the test results have the effect of directing them to a goal. Others who are blessed to have a number of different interests might benefit from tests that help them focus on their areas of greatest strength. This might spare at least some of them from changing majors one or more times during college, which can prove both expensive and time-consuming.

If you’d like to discuss these matters further with a member of our staff, feel free to call Focus on the Family’s Counseling department. Our counselors would be more than happy to help you sort out your questions and concerns over the phone. They can also provide you with referrals to qualified guidance professionals who may be able to provide your son with more specific assistance.


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