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Dear Parents, Your Teenager Doesn’t Need a Career Plan

Pausing to Reflect on Your Career Journey

Too many teens are too stressed out about career plans and goals for the future. And too many adults are putting too much pressure on young people to have it all figured out. Parents, caregivers, and supporters, I invite you to reflect:

  • What has the word “career” meant for you?
  • Who or what helped you define this word as a child/teen?
  • What about as an adult?
  • Have you made a career switch in your lifetime?
  • How many?
  • Why?
  • Is your current job in the same field as your initial training (college, trade school, self-taught, etc.)?
  • What are you noticing as you answer these questions?

My guess is that most of us have made at least a few significant life and career changes, and I’m bet most of us studied subject areas or trades that we aren’t directly working in now (and maybe never have).

My Career Journey (Thus Far)

Personally, I was only taught about one path– grade school to high school to college to career. In college, I studied English Writing, Women’s Studies, and Speech and Language Pathology. People always said to me, “What you going to do, teach?!” I rejected these assumptions and limited understanding of my liberal arts education, and, thus, I rejected the idea of teaching.

During senior year of college, I had the intention of becoming a Speech and Language Therapist (SLP), and this required grad school. However, I had already decided to do something different than academics for a few years before going back to school. I just wasn’t sure what this “something different” was going to be. After attending an information session about Teach for America (TFA), I was inspired and decided to apply, thinking I’d teach the two years and then head back to school to become an SLP.

I did, indeed, become a teacher and got my Master’s in Special Education. (Ask me about my TFA experiences some time because I have lots of mixed feelings.) 2 years turned into 3, which turned into 5, and before I knew it, I had spent 10 years as a classroom teacher. During the last year and a half of teaching, I started my business as a Life Coach for Teens and Parents, capitalizing on my gifts as a teacher and focusing on the parts of the job I loved the most– 1:1 and small group. While my formal education did inform much of the work I’m doing, this path was not one that was obvious or even in my sphere of awareness until it began unfolding.

Even now, the journey continues to expand. I’m studying to be doula and companion for the reproductive spectrum, which includes birth, postpartum, abortion, and menstruation. Again, I see the ways my values and passions and gifts have brought me to this place, but this had nothing to do with a step by step career plan.

Your Teen or Young Adult Doesn’t Need to Have a Career Plan.⠀

Yes, I’m all for young people feeling inspired and motivated and following their dreams into incredible careers. Keywords: THEIR DREAMS. The truth is, dreams come from one’s internal compass, not from external sources, pressures, or societal norms and expectations. Furthermore, teenagers need space to explore, reflect, experience, and process and come to their own truths, their own path.

When expectations are forced upon young people, when their lives are being done TO them, rather than WITH them, the result is often disempowerment. Even if they might go through the motions and follow suit for some time, a young person who is not invested and engaged will find the plan unsustainable.

In other words, when adults (parents, teachers, mentors, etc.) pressure teenagers and young adults to create a plan, we are centering our own fears, expectations, views, goals, etc. Because let’s be honest, a plan doesn’t usually mean just any plan… it means a particular plan that we created. Instead, I encourage you, instead, to center the young person and their unique needs, preferences, and desires.

As you unravel your expectations and make space for your teen, you might enjoy spending some time with your own inner teenager. They might be in need of reassurance, apology, love, care, or support. Perhaps your teenage self never got the space they needed to explore; this is the perfect time to begin the repair.

Key Reminders for Parents, Caregivers, and Supporters

  • The human experience can’t be neatly mapped out. Your journey wasn’t/isn’t neatly mapped out, and your teenager’s can’t be either.⠀
  • Careers aren’t everything. You are so much for than your career. Give your teen this same opportunity and grace.
  • Teenagers are badasses and deserve the space to BE and feel and create.
  • As a parent or caregiver, it’s not your responsibility to make your kid “successful.” It’s your job to love, care, and support them.⠀

In conclusion, I will acknowledge that parents are often just trying to keep up and navigate the system of school, college, and/or career with their teens. The messages of pressure are coming from so many angles; I get it! However, sometimes it’s necessary (and most beneficial) to slow down and question the system. If you’d support as you and your family dig more deeply into this conversation, I’m here. And if your teen could use some extra resources for navigating the expectations and pressure, check out my membership program for high schoolers.

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