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Seven Critical Questions for Teens: Question #5

April 28, 2012

Finding a DirectionThe 5th critical question for teens from Jeffrey Leiken ( to answer is:  What career direction will you go?  Now, I know you are thinking, whoa Pat, career direction for teenagers?  I am in my forties (or fifties) and still do not know my career direction!!!  I hear you, but there are some things that are helpful to think about during the teen years.  For teens, getting a general direction of where they might be headed rather than a specific career is quite helpful.  For instance, it is helpful to know if I am headed in the general direction of medicine, business, helping professions, service, ministry, military etc.  This does not lock a teen into a career path, but it does motivate them by giving them vision.  I taught high school for 16 years and one thing I consistently noticed is that my very best students had some type of career direction in mind.  When a student is pointed in a certain direction, then all the silly (math, science, english, social studies) homework assignments we give on a daily basis take on a different meaning. These assignments actually look like they might be building skills that are leading towards my ultimate vision.  

So fathers (and mothers), how can we help our teens with career direction and not be overbearing and controlling?  Here are four things to do.

1.  Consistently point out to your teen what you see as their best attributes/skills.  This will not only be encouraging for your child, it will get them thinking where those attributes/skills could be used in the future.

2. Point out to your teen what they are passionate about (they often do not know).  Watch for areas where they get fired up or lose track of time doing something.

3. Have your teen take one of the many self assessment tools out there.  There are things like Strength Finders, DISC, Meyers-Briggs that all cost a few dollars to take, but the reports are illuminating.  I found a free report at that shows top 5 Character traits, which is helpful.

4. Encourage your teen to use the resources of the high school. Programs like Naviance, Career Cruiser and many others provide excellent feedback for students.

Helping your teen find a general career direction will make a huge difference in his/her motivation for school.  Even if the direction changes (like for many of us), heading somewhere on purpose is better than floundering.

Patrick Donohue is a Life Coach in Oak Park, IL.  Contact him at   If you know a student who could use help with organization, motivation or stress, sign up for a free coaching session and see the difference that coaching can make.  Simply click on my calendar to sign up for a free session

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