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When I Grow Up, I Want to...

If there’s a question that’s a basic standard in virtually all kindergarten classrooms, it’s “What do you want to be when you grow up?” While adults may smile about the ridiculous answers that kids give, it’s a serious question for children, not to mention an opportunity to talk about personal finance. Talking to children about potential careers can be a great way to help them try on interests while also getting a feel for the lifestyles attached to various careers.



It’s not just help in answering that age-old kindergarten question that we’re seeking, though. Kids who are able to connect school subjects to their plans for the future tend to do better in school, both in grades and on standardized tests. When education becomes instrumental to them, kids are more engaged and work harder. If math homework gets a child closer to a goal, it’s much easier to muster the energy to do it.

Parents are in an excellent position to help kids with this important decision. If you’d like to help your young person try on careers, ask yourself these three questions.

1.) What web resources are available?

Kids tend to learn best when adults turn them loose on a subject and get out of the way. Kids who are expressing an interest in learning about careers may benefit from some of the wealth of information on the internet. One of the best resources is the Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook. It lists just about every job description, along with a breakdown of educational and experiential requirements, salary and growth opportunities. The reading can be a little tricky for very young kids who may need some help with vocabulary, but the charts and graphs are fairly accessible. The handbook also includes external links to professional organizations, many of which have resources specifically for kids who are interested in that career path.

2.) What do my friends do?

One of the best ways young people can learn about potential jobs is by seeing the work being done up close and personal. Reading about jobs on a website can get boring. Seeing a job done in person can provide a whole different perspective for a potential career. That’s where you can help. Identify people in your network who have jobs similar to those your child has expressed an interest in, and see if they wouldn’t mind having a shadow for a day.

3.) What jobs do I need done?

Of course, there’s no substitute for doing. Find ways in which the kind of tasks you need done around the house can relate to a profession. A child interested in interior design might enjoy the opportunity to assist with a redecoration project. A kid who wants to be an engineer could practice problem-solving skills building raised garden beds. Giving kids a chance to develop practical, hands-on skills in a field of interest to them can help give them a leg up in that career.