How to help your child choose a career path: six steps every parent should know

We all want to give our children the best possible advice, but when it comes to what path they should explore after education and what career possibilities are out there, where do we start?

“Teenagers often feel that they ought to know exactly what they want to do in the future but, in reality, few of them do,” says secondary school and A-level teacher David Earl. “So, it can be just as hard for parents to support their child into this unknown. The most important thing is to keep talking, keep options open and to understand that equipping them with life skills, such as persistence, time keeping and how to manage their finances, are just as important for them to navigate the adult world.” Still not sure where to begin? Here are some things to start with.

Recognise their mindset …
Your child will probably be familiar with the terms “growth” and “fixed” mindset, which underpin the basis of developmental learning theory that has become increasingly popular in UK schools over the past decade.

Simply put, the central idea of the growth mindset is that intelligence and academic ability can be developed, and children who have this idea instilled will seek opportunities to push themselves, understanding that although not everything will be achieved immediately, they are likely to get there if they persevere. This contrasts with a fixed mindset: the idea that a child’s intelligence and ability is finite and largely predetermined.

As a result of nature, nurture or both, children will skew one way or the other, but it is important to note that according to the theory, children with a fixed mindset may be more prone to give up easily due to unrealistic expectations of perfectionism, meaning they may struggle to achieve to their full potential.

… then help develop it
Children are often told they can be anything, but without a growth mindset they may find it hard to get there if they face challenges along the way as they enter the workforce. Help your child prepare for knockbacks, closed doors, tough interviews, rejection letters – and all the uncomfortable feelings that come with those things – by encouraging them to embrace them and understand that none of it is failure. Talk through times that you’ve struggled but persisted, or remind them of things they’ve overcome, suggesting they view every negative as a chance to learn and grow, rather than an end point. The ability to keep going could open a world of other opportunities.

Think about the obvious skills they may need …
If your child has an area of interest, note down what specific skills they may need to pursue a career in that field. The Barclays Career Wheel of Strengths enables young people to find job roles that match their skills, interests and personality. Some skills needed may be obvious, however, in a survey conducted by Barclays of 2,000 young people and their parents, nearly half (48%) of those questioned said young people are not being taught the skills that employers will be looking for in the future. But do you know what those skills actually are?

… while encouraging them to think about how to develop non-academic skills
Employers across all fields look for a diverse set of life skills. These range from resilience to problem solving, leadership to creative thinking – and getting your children to think about those non-academic skills is helpful and encouraging. Barclays LifeSkills has compiled a list of skills which are the most important for entry-level candidates in their future careers – communicating through video and audio, rather than writing, for instance, and working with people of different generations and backgrounds. Free tools and tips to help with gaining those skills can be accessed as part of Barclays’ LifeSkills programme.

Help them to look to the future …
Good grades and passing assignments may seem like the most important thing to your child right now, but try to encourage them to also think of longer-term goals, such as choosing a subject to study at university, or career to aim for. By thinking of a long-term goal, you may be able to identify areas they need to improve, or new skills you could help them learn. Explain to your child that longer-term goals are reached by achieving a series of smaller steps over time.

… but not so far that they get overwhelmed
Thinking about the future can be overwhelming, but it’s important that your child understands that the next step is just that – one small step. It doesn’t have to be anything as huge as what career to pursue or which course to take – it could be honing revision skills, getting better at communicating, devising a savings plan, recognising their personality type or working out how to use the skills they already have to their advantage. This is a team effort and there are myriad resources available to help you and your child make the next step, and look after their wellbeing along the way: ask teachers, lecturers or friends for their input, or use Barclays LifeSkills for a variety of free and helpful tools and tips.

To find out more about teaching money skills to your family, visit

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