Helping Your Child Select a Career


How often have you heard the comments, “If I’d only known twenty years ago what I know today, I surely would have picked some other career,” or “I wish that I had looked into some other field when I was younger—it’s too late now?”

These comments reveal the disillusionment many adults feel when they realize too late that they are trapped in a career that now holds little or no interest for them. Yet after years of experience working in a field, it is difficult for a person to change careers and start over in a new area.

What can parents do to help their children make wise career decisions? Many opportunities are now open to them as they counsel with their children so that their decisions are made by choice and not by chance.

Even though we hear a lot about the uncertainty of world conditions, career plans can actually be made with more surety than ever before, and the same principles will apply with few adaptations or additions during the time a family is growing up. The basic key is the prayerful involvement of the parents.

By having the desire to help each child realize he has special talents and abilities, parents can do much to help create in the child a healthy self-concept.

Dr. Stanley Coopersmith, chairman of the Department of Psychology at the University of California at Davis, studied 1700 students in the fifth and sixth grades in two New England towns. He noted that the child with the low self-esteem thinks:

“I’m not a very important or likable person, and I don’t see much reason for anyone to like me. I can’t do many of the things I’d like to do, or do them the way I think they should be done. I’m not sure of my ideas and abilities, and there’s a good likelihood other people’s ideas and work are better than my own. … I don’t expect much from myself, either now or in the future.”

By contrast, the child with high self-esteem tends to think:

“I consider myself a valuable person. I am regarded as someone worthy of respect and consideration by people important to me, especially my parents. … I have a pretty definite idea of what I think is right, and my judgments are usually borne out by subsequent events. … The work I do is generally pretty good, and I expect to do even better as I grow older and stronger and wiser.” (“Strict Homes, Happy Children,” McCall’s, July 1966, pp. 130–31.)

The result of the self-concept is either a successful or an unsuccessful child. Children who believe in themselves are willing to take the next step and use their talents in the home, at school, and, before long, in the community.

They do so in the following steps:

1. Preparation. The child examines the world around him, often with much fantasizing, and develops his particular orientation to the world of work.

2. Initial work. The teenager begins limited employment on a part-time or marginal basis.

3. Trial work. The young person enters the work force sometime between sixteen and twenty-five years of age and usually changes jobs quite often for several years.

4. Stable work. The person finds an occupation he can fulfill and enjoy enough to stay in. Increasing responsibilities help stabilize further changes.

5. Retirement. The person withdraws from active employment, usually about age sixty-five.

Left to himself, a youngster is quite limited. His experience has been small and his opportunity to test reality is confined to certain areas. Parents thus serve as teachers, examples, and arrangers. Then, as the young person gains the knowledge and habits he needs, he defines for himself the career field in which he will succeed.

If parents are alert to their children’s needs, they will provide opportunities whereby their children can grow. Dr. Lindsay R. Curtis, Latter-day Saint physician, states that “young people need to learn to accept responsibility. Somehow parents need to instill within their children the inner motivation or drive to want to work.

“I was very concerned that my sons would have the opportunity to learn to provide for themselves,” said Dr. Curtis. “I told them that I expected to provide certain things for them, but on other items I would provide an opportunity for them to work so that they could pay for the things they wanted to purchase.

“In order for them to have jobs to do, there were always jobs around the house, such as cleaning the garage or basement, and when these were caught up I arranged with the neighbors to get them jobs. Unbeknownst to them at the time, I often would subsidize the jobs provided by the neighbors just so they would have the opportunity to have a job.

“My sons were able to develop a feeling of independence as they earned the money to pay for their clothes and dates. They grew up with the idea that they earned what they got. They were able to develop the inner motivation and desire to work.”

Each family can develop projects and programs that are just right for the various members in it, despite differences in age and ability. One family raises livestock, another garden produce; one family builds houses, and another has a family dance band. Some families have maintained an answering service, a sewing and laundry service, a nursery. Opportunities always abound for the families looking for them.

President Spencer W. Kimball of the Council of the Twelve, speaking to both parents and youth, has stated:

“How many children today contribute toward the family living? Parents permit the youth to idle away their time.

“‘Can’t get a job,’ they say. Why, bless your souls, the world is crying for helpers. Have we spoiled our children paying them for every effort? I heard a fifteen-year-old complaining because he received only sixty cents an hour.

“‘What can we do?’ they cry. ‘Where can we go?’ Listen, youth, go home, roll up your sleeves; pick cotton, hoe the corn, thin the beets. Yes, before and after school and Saturdays and vacation days! It won’t hurt you to store your ball and bat and hiking togs. Hang the storm windows, paint the fence, wash the car, pick the fruit, mow the lawn, repair the screen, plant a garden, cultivate flowers, trim the trees.

“As we read of delinquency and crime, 2,000,000 serious crimes in this land in a year, and as we note many are committed by girls and boys, we ask ourselves, What is the cause and what are the cures? In an adequate survey it was learned that a majority of youth wish responsibility and will thrive on it.

“‘What can we do?’ they ask again.

“Do the shopping, work in the hospital, help the neighbors and the church custodian, wash dishes, vacuum the floors, make the beds, get the meals, learn to sew.

“Read good books, repair the furniture, make something needed in the home, clean the house, press your clothes, rake the leaves, shovel the snow, peddle papers, do ‘baby sitting’ free for neighbor mothers who must work, become an apprentice.

“J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI said, ‘Our youthful delinquency is a problem which strikes practically every home in America. It is something to which every parent should give the deepest consideration and the said responsibility for youth law infraction today lies more on the doorstep of the adult than it does on the youth. In the majority of instances the story of juvenile delinquency is the story of shattered homes where parents are neglectful, indifferent, and fail to exercise the proper degree of discipline.’

“One parent wrote to youth: ‘Your parents do not owe you entertainment; your villages do not owe you recreation facilities; the world does not owe you a living; you owe the world; you owe it your time, your energy, your talents, yourself. In plain simple words, grow up, get out of your dream world; develop your backbone, a backbone not a wishbone, and start acting like a man or a lady. …’

“Lawmakers in their overeagerness to protect the child have legislated until the pendulum has swung to the other extreme. But no law prohibits most work suggested above, and parents can make work.” (Improvement Era, December 1963, pp. 1073–74.)

President Kimball’s advice is much in keeping with the following admonition of the Lord:

“And the inhabitants of Zion also shall remember their labors, inasmuch as they are appointed to labor, in all faithfulness; for the idler shall be had in remembrance before the Lord.

“Now, I, the Lord, am not well pleased with the inhabitants of Zion, for there are idlers among them; and their children are also growing up in wickedness; they also seek not earnestly the riches of eternity, but their eyes are full of greediness.” (D&C 68:30–31.)

Parents generally should be concerned about their role in the career planning of their youngsters.