16 Jul 2020

Careers advice for 15-25s, and their parents

From Nine To Noon, 11:30 am on 16 July 2020

How do you figure out what sort of career to work towards? How do you know what to study to get there? And what if you choose a course or job you don't like? 

Self-knowledge is the best prerequisite for figuring out a career path, says professional advisor Caroline Sandford.

three girls looking at a laptop

Photo: John Schnobrich / Unsplash

She's written a practical book to help 15 to 25 year old New Zealanders and their parents explore these questions - Love Your Career From the Start.

The first step is for young people to get to know themselves - understand what's important to them and the environments in which they seem to work best, she tells Kathryn Ryan.

"There are particular roles they will naturally gravitate to - leadership roles, being a good supporter, whether they thrive in a group situation or are better by themselves. All those things are part of who they are. So when they tune into that and get an understanding of where they are the best … they can make better decisions for themselves."

Very few people of any age can actually make a list of their own values, but identifying your own will help you direct you towards a career, she says.

Careers advisor Caroline Sandford

Careers advisor Caroline Sandford Photo: loveyourcareer.co.nz

Besides understanding who you are, the next big step is what Sanford calls 'reality testing'.

This is something parents can help their kids with - but she wants them not to stamp on their kid's dreams.

"It's hugely important not to be judgmental and say 'don't be stupid, everyone wants to do that, let's get real' because what you're going to do is close down that conversation… you want to keep that open. [You could say] 'Tell me what you know about it, tell me what you need to do to get into that, how can we find out more?'"

It's helpful to find someone doing the job you think you might like to do and find out about their reality. Ask them about their industry and the training people usually do to get into it.

"As a parent, if you can expose your children to as many opportunities, as many real-life situations as possible to open up their eyes to the reality of work... then you're giving them a real gift. Because they then have some understanding of what it really looks like [to do a particular job]."

Keep the big picture in mind, too.

"Career is your whole life, it's your experiences all along the way. It is your study, your jobs, your hobbies, your sports, being on parental leave. All of those things are part of your career and they all add to your journey and your skills and your knowledge. Nothing is ever wasted."