As parents we want to help our children be successful, but how to go about it?
We all know unemployment is much higher than it used to be a few years ago, and that is harder to find a job. The truth is that there are thousands of jobs that go unfilled every year because there aren’t enough people with the right degrees and skill-sets to match those jobs. In the knowledge economy, not all college degrees are equally marketable. First, students should realize that there’s a much higher demand for engineers, scientists and technology professionals than there is for sociologists, psychologists and history experts.
Unfortunately, Latino students often tend to choose the latter group of specialties, thus taking themselves out of the high-demand-careers equation. Helping your children choose a career that has strong future opportunities guarantees not only that they’ll have a job when they graduate, but that they’ll be able to repay their student loans. Second, in addition to specific degrees, employers are looking for well-rounded students who have job skills and some experience that can be put to good use immediately in the workplace.
There are many things that you can do to ensure that your children have the skills that will lead them to a great career:
•Encourage your child to plan for the future. For many Latinos, planning doesn’t come naturally so you may need to break out of your own comfort zone to help your children plan ahead for their future. Help them research careers in order to learn more about the requirements, type of activities involved, lifestyle and compensation. How much schooling will your child need? What skills and experience are required for that type of job? What’s the future projection of the field? You can find all this information in the Occupational Outlook Handbook.
•Encourage your child to do well in math, science and technology and to take advanced and honors courses while they are in high school. Additional courses such as public speaking and languages such as Spanish and Mandarin are a plus.
•Consider internships and volunteer opportunities, a great way to gain real-world experience. These opportunities hone skills and offer a wonderful chance to develop a strong network that can open doors. Nowadays, internships are considered an important stepping stone to any entry level job. Most companies hire entry level employees from a pool of interns. Proyecto Vision has a list of opportunities specifically for Latino students and minorities:. You can also check INROADS, HACU and SEO for internship programs.
•Make sure your children are involved in extracurricular activities that interest them. A student who wants to be an engineer can get his, or her, feet wet by joining their local Robotics Team. If your child wants to be an attorney, the Debate Club is a great option. Extracurricular activities look great on resumes and college applications.
•Learn about mentorship and job shadowing options. High school and college students can take advantage of one-on-one relationships with people in their chosen fields. Mentors can help students learn about a chosen career or figure out what would be a good career option. They can help your kids understand the college application process too. Job shadowing allows students to observe someone at work and ask them questions. This can be a great way for your child to find out if the career he or she is interested in is really the right fit for them.
It’s normal for parents to worry about career opportunities for their children—even more in this difficult economy. The best thing that you can do is to make sure that your child has all the tools needed to succeed in the real world by helping him or her choose a high demand career and to develop valuable job skills in the process. To understand what it takes to get a job in the US, consider my guide, How to Get a Job in the U.S., Guide for Latinos.