Finding your child’s career path

It's never too early to start talking to your kids about career options: here's our guide to helping your children end up with a job they really want.

As your teenager heads back to school for the start of the new year, the last thing you’re likely to be thinking about is what they’ll do when the time comes for them to leave.

The subject of future careers may have come up when they had to choose the classes they’ll be taking this year.

But even if they’re not at that stage just yet, it’s never too early to start talking to them about career options and how they can end up with a job they really want.

It’s time to talk jobs

Remember to:

  • Take what your child says seriously.

  • Don’t rubbish their ideas about what they’d like to do just because you don’t think it’s right for them, or the job doesn’t pay enough. They’re the ones who will have to spend the bulk of their time doing the work, so it needs to be something they enjoy.

  • Refrain from forcing your ideas on them. Make suggestions, but don’t pressure them into following a certain career path.

  • Investigate a wide range of jobs. There is bound to be all sorts of vocations you’ve never heard of or that simply weren’t around when you were first entering the workforce.

  • Ask for professional help. Encourage your child to see their dean or guidance counsellor at school. There are also private career advisors available.

Take the next step

When they know what they want to do…

  • If your child has a clear idea about what job they’d like to do, next you need to figure out how to get them into this type of work.

  • For many jobs there’s a defined training process that has to be completed before they can start working in that field but, in others, they can do a course first or complete one while they’re on the job. In some careers they won’t get a look-in unless they have a university degree, while in others their chances of landing a position are much better if they have some practical, hands-on experience.

  • Again, guidance counsellors are great to talk to about what your child needs to get into this work, or else you can go straight to professional bodies associated with the industry. For example, the New Zealand Journalism Training organisation can provide information on how to become a journalist, from qualifications needed and where to get them, through to job opportunities.

When they haven’t got a clue what they want to do…

  • This makes things tougher. There’s no need to stress about it now, but it doesn’t hurt to get them thinking about what they might enjoy and exploring possibilities. Talk to them about what they’re interested in, what subjects they’ve enjoyed at school and things they’re good at.

  • For example, if hair, makeup and clothes are a passion, then possible jobs include a fashion salesperson, clothes designer, seamstress, makeup artist, stylist, hairdresser or beauty therapist.

  • Someone who is very outgoing and likes talking to people might be good in a customer service or sales role, or could be suited to a job as a receptionist. Trained careers advisors can help with this.

  • If they have a vague idea of what they might like but want to try it before they commit to going down that path, job-shadowing or doing work experience is a good idea. Some firms may be happy to let your child observe their workplace for a day, or talk to a staff member about what the job involves. Mr they may be able to work part time for a company, sometimes with a view to getting a job there once they’ve finished school.

  • options available to teenagers include a scheme called Gateway, which places year 11 to 13 students in workplaces to get experience while they’re still at school. This is arranged through schools. Check this out

  • The New Zealand government website,, is a great resource for anyone looking for work but is especially helpful if you’re trying to decide on a career path. It’s full of useful information on everything from qualifications you’ll need and training organisations, to how much work is available in particular fields.

  • The website also has a jobs database, which not only includes details of what certain jobs involve and how to get into them, but interviews with people who work in the fields. These people share how they got their jobs and what they actually do.

  • Particularly helpful are interactive tools that can assist in giving your child some ideas about what sort of work they might enjoy and be suited to. These include one that matches their skills to jobs and another that gives ideas for careers based on their favourite subjects at school and more personality-based criteria, such as their interests outside of school.

Great job!

There are many options nowadays when it comes to jobs. Students can even get work experience before they leave school.

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