The 7 ways to help your teenager decide on a career, according to a careers advisor.

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“So what are you going to do once exams are over?" 

It’s a question many soon-to-be school leavers love to answer – especially those who’ve already got solid ideas about their future and plans to make it happen.

But for a lot of teens, the question stirs up a sense of dread. Why? They don’t know what they want for dinner that night, let alone what they want to do for their whole entire life.

And you know what? That’s perfectly normal. 

The thing is, trying to decide when you’re still in high school what comes next can be incredibly daunting, and the fear of making the ‘wrong choice’ (spoiler alert: there isn’t a ‘wrong choice’) is very real – which is why we chatted to Cara Vanzini, Australian Catholic University (ACU) Careers Advisor, about how parents can help their kids decide on the right career path for them.

“Selecting a career path can be very stressful for young people,” explained Cara, who is focussed on assisting students as they transition into the next phase of their education.

“In my experience, young people think they have to pick a career now for the rest of their lives, which most of us know is not the case,” she added.

Yes, it can be an overwhelming prospect, but luckily, Cara has plenty of helpful tips and suggestions for parents to help their kids make their next move.

For one thing, “attendance at university Open Days, such as those offered each year at ACU, are a great way to explore study options for those careers that require a degree qualification,” Cara explained. 

ACU Open Days offer the perfect opportunity to find out more about different courses and study options, plus meet the staff and students and check out the campuses. It’s a good idea to go with your teen early in their senior school years, so they can start seeing what’s on offer before the pressure of Year 12 is upon them. 


“I recommend attending these as early as possible, such as in Year 10, 11 and 12, so your teen isn’t feeling under pressure to make a decision within a couple of months,” Cara said. 

“Early exploration at Open Days will allow them to rule out options, and give them more time to change their minds throughout their final years of school.”

It’s not the only very handy tip Cara has for parents wanting to help their teens decide on a career. Here are more of her suggestions: 

Be clear that selecting a career pathway is for now. 

“This is not to say that it can’t be long term, but these days, the average adult has five careers and 17 job changes in their lifetime, so it is important we support our teenagers to pick their careers for the now,” said Cara. 

“If it doesn’t work out the way they hope, they can change it. There are many employment and study options available to help us explore the abundance of career opportunities, so be encouraging and open to choice. 

“It just may relieve some of the stress and anxiety for young ones.” 

Identify your child’s strengths, weaknesses and interests. 

We have things we love to do… aaand things we’re not so great at. And that’s fine! But urge your teen to play to their strengths. “Consider the career choices that may incorporate these,” Cara advised. 

“For a teenager who is outgoing, social and just wants to spend time with friends, maybe a good place to start exploring is with people-focused roles, such as hospitality, healthcare, social work or teaching. If you have a teen who is glued to their phone and social media, maybe consider digital marketing roles.


“To find out more about your teenager’s skills and strengths, you could suggest they complete some online skill assessments, such as the VIA Character Strengths, the skills and values assessments at Skillsroad or myfuture, or a free personality test at 16Personalities.”

Expose your young ones to a range of experiences where possible. 

As beneficial as it can be to get to university open days, getting teens’ hands dirty can also be a huge help in their career decisions. “Engage them with team sport, part-time or casual employment, volunteering, creative or arts-based activities, live shows and exploring nature,” Cara suggested. 

“The more they experience, the more likely they are to find something they may love to do for work.”

Get involved. 

“This speaks to the above point,” said Cara. “Share in their experiences and learn more about what they enjoy or dislike. If they see you are interested in spending time with them while they explore possibilities, they may be more inclined to involve you in the process than shut you out.”

Link young ones with professionals of industry.

Any parent of teens knows it's hard to get through at the best of times (I've heard 'selective hearing’ runs rampant through this age group, right?). So why not connect them with a professional, whose insights they may put more stock in. 

“Hearing from parents is not always welcome by teenagers, particularly if they feel their parents are opinionated or biased to certain choices,” said Cara. 

“Instead, spending time with an industry professional will give young ones time to learn from people who are currently in those careers, including learning about their career transitions and plans for the future. This could be very motivating for your teenager.” 


And if spending that one-on-one time helps them decide it’s not the career for them? “That is also okay as it will be one less career they will agonise over.”

Keep conversations open and be curious about their choices. 

“Even if you think you know a lot about a particular job, career path or industry, try not to force your opinions on your young ones. Instead, use open-ended questions to learn more about why they are interested in that pathway,” advised Cara. 

“Be curious and be mindful of your judgements or bias. Try not to influence your teenager, as they may blame you for their career choices down the track if things don’t work out.”

Do your research.

There is a wealth of information out there to help guide teens towards their next step once they finish high school, said Cara. “Besides talking to experts on university Open Days – if you want to help your teen, also look at a range of resources such as the Australian Government’s National Careers Institute for clear career information and to explore a range of industries. 

“The Skillsroad and myfuture websites also have sections specifically for parents, carers and supporters. And if you like to read, the book What Colour Is Your Parachute?, by Richard N. Bolles, explores all things careers, while incorporating some meaningful activities throughout. 

“There is also a teen edition of What Colour Is Your Parachute?, written by Carol Christen, with engaging activities families can do together.”

Thinking about university? Come along to one of Australian Catholic University’s Open Days. Join them on campus to ask staff about your dream course, the application process, pathway options, early offers and more.

Feature Image: Getty.

Australian Catholic University
Thinking about university? Come along to one of Australian Catholic University’s Open Days. You can join us on campus to ask staff about your dream course, the application process, pathway options, early entry and more.
Take the opportunity to chat to current students, find out what the campus has to offer, learn more about our campus in Rome, and explore the opportunities available to you at ACU. Register for ACU Open Day. Learn more at