It can be an overwhelming thing for a teen to figure out what they want to spend the rest of their life pursuing. For kids with limited life experience and even less employment experience, the question is huge. Before pursuing internships and summer jobs, it is often a good idea to talk with people in as many different fields as possible. These can be informal questions of the person sitting next to you on the train, an in-depth discussion with an adult friend, or a scheduled job shadow appointment with a professional. The student should dress respectfully to suit the atmosphere of the office/workplace they will be in. And, they should go with a list of questions:
- What is the best thing about your job?
- If you could start over, would you choose the same field?
- What is the future of this field and do you see it expanding or becoming limited?
- How has this field and its future been affected by government intervention?
- What attributes are important for anyone wanting to work in this career?
- What do I need to do now, as a high school student, to better prepare myself to major in this area?
- What do I need to do in college to best prepare for (medical school, law school, graduate school, job interviews)?
- What is the worst thing about this job?
- What does a typical day look like for you?
- Would that schedule be normal for someone newly out of college or is it like this only after working for a number of years?
- Students should observe the stress level and take note of it. Is it like this all the time?
Once home, the teen should take the time to debrief and capture all their thoughts and feelings on paper. After several job shadowing experiences, they can all start to blend together so it is important to sort out what they learned immediately. In the debriefing, kids need to be honest in writing down their answers to these questions:
- Could I see myself doing that every day for the rest of my life?
- Is what I saw today the reward of years of paying their dues in a profession or would my work day look like that immediately out of college?
- What would I love the most about this job?
- What would I hate?
- What would be a struggle (and would I be willing to go through that struggle to be good)?
- Do I have the right personality type to do this well?
- How much debt would I have to incur and how many years would I have to invest to get the training I need to do this?
- Look up expected salary ranges for this job.
- Look up job satisfaction rankings for this profession.
Carefully crafted questions and thoughtful debriefing can help a teen really make the most of any visit. High school, college, and professional school should all be a time of discovery to find a good career fit. For example, one young medical student I know did a rotation with a surgeon. After following him for days, she realized that she did not have the stamina to keep up with a surgery schedule working early and late. She chose another field. Of course, very specific fields are discovered in medical school, but our goal at this point is to make sure medical school is the right choice in the first place.
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