86° F
Mostly Cloudy
Mostly Cloudy

Published On: Feb 20 2014 05:00:00 AM EST

Life Lessons: Clues to the best career fit for your child

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Sixteen-year-old Sierra Lesney’s childhood past-time, horse riding, is still her passion. She plans to take her love for horses and turn it into a full-time career as an international horse seller.

"I started when I was two," Lesney says. "And my grandmother is a trainer, so I just started riding with her."


The straight-A honors student will pursue a college major that will help her turn dreams into reality.

"I want to study economics, because I think that will help me know the different currencies and different exchange rates and stuff like that for different countries," Lesney says.

"A real cue is what do your children do in their free time, or down time,” says Rhonda Hess, a certified career coach with Fully Fit to Lead.

Hess helps adult clients identify their strengths, but says kids often show their natural abilities early.

A parent’s first step is to watch your child play.

Expose him or her to a variety of new people and activities, and introduce the idea of work and career.

For pre-teens and teens, experts tell parents to look for clues in their child’s choice of clubs and after-school activities. Make the connection between those interests and possible careers.

Talk about job “clusters" - families of jobs that require similar skills.

Parents should be careful not to pigeon-hole kids no matter what their age.

"I think encourage and allow are distinctions that are wise to keep in mind," Hess says.

For Lesney, forging a career in horses isn’t a big leap; it’s already an important part of her everyday life.

Experts say some schools conduct student aptitude testing and begin career counseling in middle school or high school, but the programs vary widely by state.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics offers good career planning resources for parents and kids.