Top Career Tips for Children - Magic Moments

Top Career Tips for Children - Magic Moments

I sometimes get asked by parents and carers “What can I be doing to help my son or daughter find a career?” Understandably parents and carers want their children to be as “sorted as possible” which is understandable. From experience, security, stability and happiness are the most common goals that they wish for their children. However, in a rapidly changing world, both politically and economically, this isn’t always easy or straight forward.

Of course, there is much information and advice already available (such as the Parental Guidance website[i], maintained by the Careers Writers Association) which we can direct parents to. However, beyond the volumes of information on the internet and within the various wonderful books that are out there, these are my top tips…

Top Tip No 1:

The classic “throw mud at the wall and see what sticks” approach! Provide children from an early age, with as many different role models, experiences and examples of what may be possible in how they can live their lives. Not just examples of types of work, but also lifestyles and ways to live; from examples of those who work part time and those who work full time, to those who make adventure or building a home their lives. Ideally, do this in as many different ways as possible. Recent evidence suggests that children have already decided what they feel may be possible careers for them by the age of 11[ii]; often splitting them into gender-related roles. It becomes vital that they are shown a wider and more in-depth view of the world (to help them see what is possible and to challenge gender stereotypes). 

Top Tip No 2:

Recent evidence from UCAS shows that children who know what they want to study by the age of 10 are more likely to get into top universities.[iii] There is a need for children in Primary School to have a greater awareness of how career pathways work and what their options are, including where their education may sit within this process (helping them to understand why learning Maths and English is a good idea). Understanding these pathways includes not just the academic routes but also the alternative routes through life.

So how can this be done? Help children to understand what family members, friends of the family and neighbours do and how they got into their job roles (what routes did they take?). Give them opportunities to speak to others, spend time with them and encourage them to be curious and ask questions.

Top Tip No 3:

Provide them with books and stories to read that provide inspiration and roles they can identify with, this includes helping students with SEND find examples of who they can be. There are a number of books available, such as Different Like Me – My Book of Autism Heroes by Jennifer Elder, that can be useful in helping young people build their self-concepts of who they can be like or what they can be. Combining these role-models with wider examples (even if fanciful) can boost confidence and help form positive identities. From personal experience, a game that some parents play is identifying super heroes which younger children can identify their SEND needs with; for example The Flash[iv] or Blur[v] for children with ADHD.

Top Tip No 4:

As they get older, autobiographies can be an inspiration; especially of those whose paths have been more convoluted, or whose success is in more than one career (such as Dame Ellen MacArthur[vi]).

Top Tip No 5:

Encourage them to access blogs. If they are interested in a particular topic in school or out of school, help them to find further information, documentaries and articles about that topic and ways to get involved; such as attending events or doing hands-on activities related to their interests. Help them to do more of what they love.

Top Tip No 6:

Whilst doing this, remain mindful that for most children, they won’t have an idea of what they “will do when they are older” until they are closer to thirty[vii] - this is very normal! It is gaining an idea of what is possible, how things work and where they fit (self-concept) in Primary School, building to more in-depth exploration in Secondary School onwards which, is key.

Top Tip No 7:

Finally, allow children to make decisions and learn how to weigh up risks; you don’t want the first “big decision” they make with regards their future to be the first decision they ever make. This is echoed in an article from Psychology Today in 2015 called “the Importance of Learning How to Make Decisions[viii]” which, explores the way in which healthy decision making and risk taking can be introduced from an early age. Crucial to this is giving children the space to make mistakes, take risks and learn from them. As A.P.J Abdul Kalam states “If you fail, never give up because F.A.I.L. means "First Attempt In Learning"[ix]

Top Tip No 8:

Each of us will build our own individual narrative of what life and career can be for ourselves; the ages we are born into, our culture, upbringing and our very natures will affect who we become. It is vital for parents and carers to understand that the combination of magic moments each of our children experience will be for them to use as a foundation for their futures. All we can do is help them make sense of them and provide them with opportunities to help them experience as many of them as possible.


For ideas of inspirational websites, try having a look at some of these as a start:

For inspirational books:

  • Different Like Me – My book of autism heroes by Jennifer Elder
  • Taking on the World - Dame Ellen MacArthur, Autobiography

Inspirational TV and Radio ideas:

  • BBC Radio 2, “Great Job Wednesday” – each Wednesday at about 8.40am
  • CITV – Mission Employable, each Saturday (signed BSL) – each Saturday at about 7am
  • Documentaries, from Ancient History to Natural History! Start with Horrible Histories and build up to Time Team!

Inspirational Museums, Galleries and Events:


[ii] The Association of Colleges (AoC) latest research says “The majority of children (aged 11 to 16) expressed a desire to become doctors, teachers or to work in the uniformed services (police, fire service, armed forces etc). The jobs they wanted to do were categorised according to gender, with girls wanting to become teachers and doctors and boys wanting to do hands on, practical jobs like engineering and plumbing” Page 7,

Written by: Chris Targett

Tuesday 5th December 2017