When she was three, she wanted to be a “mommy.” When she started kindergarten, it was a teacher. In junior high, she watched the family dog recover from an accident and announced she was going to be a vet.
It’s typical for kids to aspire to different professions as they grow, said Dr. Dominique Morisano, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto.
Very young children often declare what they want to be based on professions they are exposed to, as well as those they see in the media, Morisano said. “But I wouldn’t dismiss what (pre-teens) say they aspire to,” she notes. “As children grow and their worldviews expand, their ideas about what is possible start to diversify.”
Indeed, a survey of 8,000 adult workers recently completed by the online professional network LinkedIn found that 30 percent of people surveyed either currently have their childhood dream job or a career related to it.
“The dream jobs we aspire to as children are a window into our passions and talents,” said Nicole Williams, LinkedIn’s career expert.
Ever since the economy cratered and young adults found themselves without a job and some even without a direction for a secure path, there’s been a new focus among educators to beef up career education. A new endeavor common in several states is “personalized learning plans” that involve “setting long-term academic and career goals with the help of parents,” said Brendan Desetti of the Association for Career and Technical Education.
Experts say there’s much that parents can do to help their kids find one of life’s greatest rewards: fulfilling work.
Exposing your children to many subjects and experiences helps them to discover their natural passions and interests, said Loni Coombs, author of “You’re Perfect and Other Lies Parents Tell.”
Taking nature walks could spark a flame for environmental work, for instance, or asking them to help you read labels on food items could trigger an interest in a health field.
Encouraging reading can take your child to worlds you can’t take them to yourself, Coombs said.
For that 13-year-old who wants to be a veterinarian, or that teen who wants to be a novelist, help them see the realistic steps they must take to achieve that goal, Morisano said.
The aspiring novelist, for instance, can be encouraged to keep a daily journal, and the future vet to get good grades in science.
Even if they don’t continue on that path later, “Taking small steps toward specific goals builds confidence and also lets them learn how to attain goals,” Morisano said.
Exhibiting a love for learning is another key, said Carol Christen, co-author of “What Color Is Your Parachute for Teens.”
Kids learn from what their parents do, Christen said, and talking about how you may be taking continuing professional education or practicing a new skill helps them learn one of the most important lessons for the modern work world: Industries change quickly, and workers must continually learn and adapt.