Adolescent Career Development: How Parents Can Help

Support and encouragement from the family have a significant part to play in helping young people work through the process of thinking about and planning for their future life and career.

In summary, Australian and international research has found that a young person’s readiness for making career and educational choices and their career decision-making confidence are enhanced when:

  • Young people feel securely attached and connected to their parents and family.
  • Young people are encouraged to develop independence.
  • Parents establish clear standards while at the same time demonstrating warmth and support for career exploration.
  • Parents and young people work in partnership on career development activities, e.g. attending course information evenings, career interviews, education institution open days, etc.

Cross-cultural research has highlighted the importance of warmth, encouragement and support from both parents, but especially fathers in encouraging young Australians to anticipate and prepare for making career and educational choices. Further, parental support and encouragement in relation to career development becomes more important as young Australians reach their senior high school years, a time when they make critical choices about their post-school options (Hughes, 2011).

What This Means for Parents

Encourage your adolescent children to:

  • Anticipate the decisions they need to make that have career implications (e.g., choosing school subjects, co-curricular options, whether to get a part-time job, whether to do a school-based apprenticeship, etc).
  • Start early to investigate educational and career options.
  • Use internet, print and people resources to investigate options.
  • Study school subjects related to a career preference and do related work experience or volunteer work or interview workers to explore the career field of interest.
  • Help young people to enhance their self-understanding and clarify their interests, abilities, values, skills, talents.
  • Provide opportunities for young people to learn about occupations, education and training courses and related entry requirements.
  • Help young people to make informed and realistic career and educational decisions towards the end of secondary school and later that will help them to lead satisfying lives.

Some Practical Tips for Parents

  • Discuss work and careers with your teenage children in general conversation when the opportunity arises. For example, taking a child to sports training might be an opportunity to have a conversation about sports coaching as a career option through paid employment or volunteer work.
  • Help young people to focus on their interests by:
    • Encouraging participation in wide-ranging activities at school and out of school to enhance self-awareness.
    • Suggesting occupations and educational courses that relate to their interests.
    • Asking your children to explain what attracts them to the occupations and courses that appeal to them.
    • Identifying themes and patterns in the activities that your teen is attracted to.
    • Discussing results and implications of any career assessment activities they complete activitis they do in career education lessons or career counselling sessions.
  • Help your children to focus on their abilities by:
    • Encouraging participation in a wide range of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities to promote the development of skills and abilities and to help them to understand what they enjoy.
    • Giving positive feedback so that young people can recognise their strengths.
    • Encouraging young people to explore occupations and education or training courses that are consistent with their academic and other abilities and talents.
    • Helping young people to focus on their values by encouraging them to consider what is important to them and thinking about what this might mean for future vocational and educational choices.
  • Encourage young people to access the print, people and internet resources available at their school or in their home or community to help them make choices about their future.
  • Discuss planning school subjects with young people and with relevant school staff.
  • Where possible, attend any career information events with your children.
  • Encourage teens to talk to people they know about their occupations, courses they are currently studying or have previously studied, educational institutions they are currently attending or have previously attended etc.
  • Discuss course options with recruitment or faculty staff at education or training institutions.
  • Arrange opportunities for your teen to observe people doing their jobs and to interview people about their jobs.
  • Encourage your children to develop the self-esteem and self-confidence they will need to market themselves effectively to employers in a changing world of work where they are likely to have numerous job changes in their worklife.


Hughes, C. & Thomas, T. (2003). The family’s influence on adolescent and young adult career development:  Theory, research and practice. Australian Journal of Career Development, 12, 38-46.

Hughes, C. (2011). The influence of self-concept, parenting style and individualism-collectivism on career maturity in Australia and Thailand. International Journal of Educational and Vocational Guidance, 11, 197-210.

Hughes, C. (2012). A cross-cultural study of career maturity in Australia and Thailand (doctoral dissertation, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia). Retrieved from

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