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Helping your teen decide on a career

In this info sheet

When you’re a teen, it’s difficult to decide on a career, with so many options to choose from. Also, remember that your teen may change their mind about their career choice once they’ve begun training or working and that’s perfectly normal! These changes will allow your teen to accumulate experience and knowledge that will be useful in other situations.

Active listening and non-judgmental communication are essential in guiding your teen in choosing a career. This info sheet will provide you with concrete tips for helping your teen choose a career.

Introduction: a few words about the Québec school system from childhood to adolescence

Preschool education:

  • At four or five years of age, children can enter preschool, also called kindergarten. Preschool is not compulsory.

Elementary education:

  • Then, as of the beginning of the month of September when they turn five or six, children start elementary school. Elementary education lasts six years (from grade one to grade six) and is compulsory.

Secondary education:

  • After finishing elementary school, young people start their secondary education and continue until they obtain a Secondary School Diploma (SSD). There are two ways to obtain an SSD:
    • Through general education for young people offered in secondary schools. This program lasts five years (Secondary 1 to Secondary 5).
    • Through adult general education which is available to people 16 years of age and older.
  • Young people must attend secondary school until the last day of the school year during which they turn 16 or until they obtain their SSD.

There are also specific study paths for young people with special needs. Teens with special needs require more support to learn, as a result of their diagnosis or their condition. Your teen is in this situation? Ask the school staff about the possibilities available.

And afterwards? A multitude of possibilities are available to them

Being a teenager means having to decide on a career. As a parent, you may not be aware of some of the possibilities. We are often aware of types of jobs those around us have, but there are so many more!

However, it’s not easy finding your way through all the study and career options. There are multiple possibilities and they change over time. The following diagram presents a few options.

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This diagram is not an exhaustive list of potential career paths. For more information on the Québec school system, see the following website: Québec education system | Gouvernement du Québec (quebec.ca)

You know your teen’s strengths and qualities!

As parents, you are the ones who know your teen best. You have watched their choices of games and pastimes evolve since they were very young, and then seen how their social relationships, school and taste in clothing and music evolved.

You may have imagined your child in a specific field in which you think they would be happy. Unconsciously, you may also have steered them towards a particular trade related to your own interests. But what does your teen think about this? Here are a few tips to support your teen in making a decision.

How can you help your teen choose a career?

Through active listening and non-judgmental communication.

  • Think about your prejudices about certain careers and try to put them aside. This will enable you to talk about your teen’s career choices openly. After all, what’s important is that your teen study in a field that lights them up and that their career makes them want to get out of bed every morning!
  • Listen to your teen talk about their hopes, interests and what is important to them in society.
  • Ask your teen what classes they love at school and why.
  • Talk to your teen about their strengths and qualities and highlight their skills. For example, if your teen:
    • is very empathetic towards others
    • has a talent for drawing
    • has a green thumb

Help your teen connect the dots between their strengths and jobs where these skills would be valuable.

  • Explore with your teen what types of studies they would like to undertake. Talk to them about the various options after secondary school (Vocational studies diploma (DEP), college diploma (DEC), university studies, etc.). Talk about the length of time each of these possibilities involves.
  • Brainstorm with your teen, asking them: “Name all the careers that might interest you, without limiting yourself!”.

Then, make a list of all the benefits and challenges each of these options involves. Let your teen express themself about the items listed. The Explore your future maps may also help you start a conversation with your teen about their career choice.

 

By learning about their career options

  • Look into careers that interest your teen. You don’t need to be a career expert to help your teen, but they would probably be happy to see that you did some research on the options they’re interested in. This shows them that they have your support.

 

By directing them to resources

  • Offer your teen resources related to their interests.
  • Connect them to adults working in the career your teen would love to have. Talking to someone who does this job every day can be of great help in making a career choice! To help your teen get a clear picture, you may also encourage them to find a mentor in the field that interests them.
  • Refer your teen to a career counsellor as needed. There are also Carrefour jeunesse-emploi youth employment centres across Québec that offer free support to youth from age 15 or 16 to age 35. Just look for the one in your area to see the list of services offered.

In brief

Remember that changing your mind is always okay. Your teen may very well begin an academic program and then choose a totally different program. Also, sometimes when starting a job, we realize that another job would be more suitable. Nothing is set in stone! Change is always possible. It’s important that they follow their interests when choosing what program to study or what type of job would stimulate them.

As with everything else, our career interests evolve over our entire lifetime. Remind yourself that the skills developed in one job or the knowledge acquired in an initial academic program are strengths that will be useful in another field of work or study. This is not wasted time. These changes can open more doors!

Resources and practical tools

For support

General resources

If you are dealing with a situation you are concerned about, don’t hesitate to talk to or consult a social services health care worker or professional:

Community organizations – maison de la famille ado, maison des jeunes

Some community organizations offer a program to support parents of teens. Ask your local organization about what’s available.

School staff members

Specialized resources

  • Carrefour jeunesse-emploi in your region. To find your local Carrefour jeunesse-emploi centre, please click here.
  • Guidance counsellors: The school service centres and private schools offer career counselling services to secondary school students. For more information, please click here.

To learn more

References

Gouvernement du Québec. (2024, 14 February). Québec Education System.

 

This info sheet has been written in collaboration with :

Patrick Rajotte, support agent for school-immigrant families collaborations, Centre de services scolaire des Grandes-Seigneuries

Latest updates : may 2024

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