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Exploring Careers

As our kids hit their teens, we start looking ahead and trying to imagine a career for them. Recently, I’ve had several families ask about a good process for helping children explore their possible paths and careers.  Each child has their own constellation of strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, tolerances and frustrations, but this blog will offer some general resources for starting this conversation.

I turned first to Linda Lopez. Well known and respected in the homeschool community, Linda was a high school guidance counselor and now does workshops and consulting on transcripts, getting into college, PSEO and career exploration. I will share some of her suggestions, and you can contact Linda about upcoming workshops or to set up a consulting appointment, if you’d like more help on this journey. Her website is

Linda lists as a good starting point for information on careers, education and jobs. The publication MN Careers can be found at your library for information on the job market in MN. Other sites to explore, according to Linda:

There are a number of books that aim to help you zero in on careers to fit your personality or interests. A few that we liked are: Cool Careers for Dummies, Discover the Best Jobs for You and The Right Job, Right Now (the complete tool kit for finding your perfect career).  And there are reference books like: The Big Book of Jobs, Encyclopedia of Careers and Vocational Guidance, Employment Outlook, and Planning Job Choices. Your library probably has an entire section devoted to career exploration.

You can check out the website for the television program Real Life 101 ( for all kinds of resources and information on different career options.

Some things that are helpful to consider: Does your child like to work with people, or more independently? Prefer hands on or mental work? Outdoors or inside where it’s always dry and comfortable? Predictable hours or an on-call lifestyle? Messy ok, or prefer a tidy work environment? Enjoy physical challenges or a more sedate pace for work?

There’s no short cut to this process. And once your child has a career path in mind, you’ll need to map out the schoolwork, training and experience that will be needed to get there. It’s also helpful to interview a couple people in the chosen field of work. Ask them things like: What do you wish you knew about this job back when you were thinking about it as a profession? What is your typical day like? Is there a busy season in this job (like tax season for accountants, Christmas season for retail work, planting and harvesting for agricultural work)? Is there an entry level job that would be a good starting point (as with nursing where you could start as a nurse’s aide, or if you want to someday open your own store you can start working in a similar retail outlet to learn the ropes)? What training and what schools or programs are nearby for this line of work?

And be sure to ask: What’s the “messy” part of your job? I constantly remind my kids that there is a messy side to everything. You want a dog, but there’s doggy doo-doo duties that go along with it. You like to play with babies and offer to babysit, but there will be diapers and some spitting up to deal with. You think it would be great to be a Veterinarian and work with animals, but sometimes those animals can’t be saved and you have the difficult responsibility of putting them to sleep. You have to be able to take the good and the bad or difficult responsibilities to take on a profession. And sometimes a day spent job-shadowing can give you a good indication of whether or not a job i

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