Preteens: Filling up the career decisions jar

Did you know what you wanted to be when you were 12? What about when you were 16? Loaded question, right?

People come in all different forms: some of us know what we want to do straight from the get-go, while others dawdle from job to job, soul searching – and that’s okay.

First off, if you’re worried your preteen doesn’t have any interests or career ideas, relax! They’re only 12 (or 10, or maybe they’re even a teenager, but the point remains).

When I was 12, we had careers advisors come to our primary school telling us that we should know our talent and what we wanted to do in life. I was so upset about this because I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do, let alone what I was good at. My dad gave me some reassurance: “A person is like a jar: you need to fill it up with “stuff,” until it mixes together and starts overflowing: then you will have had enough experiences and skills to create your own interests and careers.” If your child hasn’t decided on a life path, it’s only a matter of time: their jar simply hasn’t been filled with enough interesting “stuff.”¬¬

I remember when horrified parents would come to school during parents’ day and I’d overhear them talk about how their teen never does anything but play video games at home. I can confirm that some of these “good-for-nothing” teenagers turned into adults that are now employed to test out video games.

Here’s the point: just because your child doesn’t want to be a ballerina or fireman, have you ever considered that by the time they need to get a job, the landscape of careers will change? Video game testers were something we could only dream of when we were growing up: this industry was only created during my lifetime. Imagine what the next 10 years will bring to jobs!

What can you do? Fill their jar! Fill it up with interesting activities and encourage them to take an interest in what they enjoy, even if it’s something dumb. Every person has room for a passion, so let them experience everything you can bring to the table – their overflowing jar will somehow come together over time and they will be a better-rounded individual for having tried so many different things.

Okay, I can hear you thinking “But my Bobby…he must become a doctor/lawyer/insert “good career” here.” They still might! But would you rather your child be stuck in a job for you, or for them? Do you think Richard Branson’s mother is worrying about how he didn’t become “insert career here”? As parents, your job is to encourage and nurture – they’ll figure it out. So next time you walk into Linda’s room and she’s playing a video game and can’t pause it, just remember: you could be stomping out the greatest video game tester’s career if dinner can’t wait 5 minutes.

By Eva Maria
Eva-Maria is an inter-generational relationships expert and author of bestselling book You Shut Up! and sequel Shush, You!. Visit www.eva-maria.co.nz.