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Some of you may not be aware but in my day job I am a high school counselor. In this role, I help students schedule classes, process any social or emotional concerns that arise, advocate for equity among all students, and help breakdown any road blocks that are presented in their education. In addition to these responsibilities, I also assist students with career exploration. I spend a lot of time sending transcripts, assisting with college applications, and writing written evaluations. Written evaluation is a fancy term for a letter of recommendation from a counselor.
This is great for those students who are planning on going to college. What about those students who don’t see college in their future? Do I forget about them? Are their needs not as important? The answer to that question is no. Their needs are just as important as the students who are college bound. I recognize that these students have ambitions and aspirations just like my students who are going off to a university. Their life plan will just be different.
As a parent, I will tell you that it is important to support your child with whatever endeavor they choose to do. This helps build their confidence as they piece together what they want to do. Some of their plans may sound far fetched, but that is okay. Personally, I have a go-getter type of attitude and I try my hardest with whatever goal I set in mind (like building a blog from scratch). If your child possesses this type of attitude, it can take them very far. I always tell my students that college is one form of postsecondary training. There are many other forms of this type of training and I’m going to explore these other options down below.
The first option that I will touch upon is the military. The military is a good option for many students who are looking to potentially see the world, earn a paycheck, and serve their country. In the United States, there are requirements that everyone has to meet prior to enlisting. These requirements include receiving a high school diploma, meeting medical requirements, and having a clean record just to name a few. All candidates will also need to take a fitness exam as well as the ASVAB test (aptitude test that measures multiple abilities). Taking these tests does not guarantee placement in the military for your child since there are qualifying scores that they need to meet. The ASVAB test is also a test that you can use to help with career exploration outside of the military in case you all decide this isn’t the best option.
To get started with this process, your child is able to meet with a recruiter from any of the branches of military. The recruiter will assist you every step of the way. It is their job to answer any questions from salary, placement, boot camp, and potential jobs in the military. I know some parents will worry if their child will have to see combat. The recruiter will also assist with any worries regarding this question. Some perks that come with the military is paid housing, travel, and free college later down the road. If your teenagers at home have an interest in the military, contact the recruiters as early as possible or join JROTC if your local high school offers it.
Learning a Trade
Good news for everyone that might like to work with their hands. Trades are in high demand! Trades are a great alternative for students who have no interest in being in an academic environment past high school. If your area offers any type of technical training during high school then that is even better. This type of training often comes free for students and will give them job ready skills the day after graduation. Technical training also comes with very little debt which sets your child up for great financial success unlike college. Many of the trades may require some type of apprenticeship which is often paid with an industry recognized credential. If this is something that your child has an interest in, I would highly recommend this option for them.
Next, let’s explore the world of becoming your own boss. This can be a risky venture but it also can be very rewarding. Personally, I know people that started their own companies which are incredibly successful. They are able to pick their own schedule and have their say over everything in their company. However, it is important to note that it takes hard work and possibly money up front depending on the type of business one will own.
To help your child get a head start with their ambition, help them find a good mentor in the community during high school. There could be someone in your own personal network that you know that owns a business. It doesn’t always have to be the same type of business that your child wants to do. Across the board, all business owners will need to learn how to market and build their brand. All business owners should create a business plan and file the appropriate paper work. This person could give insight on this process and what they do.
There are many small business ideas that your child can explore during high school to help build skills. There are stories of teenagers starting vending machine, lawn care, and even streaming businesses through YouTube that turn out to be very lucrative. Even if they decide to not stick with the idea long term, they will gain an understanding on what works and what doesn’t which is very valuable to creating a successful company.
Expand on Existing Talents
Maybe your child has some sort of talent that they can utilize for a career. Your child might be a star athlete, sing as well as Mariah Carey, or is an amazing writer. While the likelihood of your child becoming an A list celebrity who makes millions of dollars is very slim, I cannot discount this as an option because it is there. There are people that I know who took advantage of their talents and were able to have some success with them. For anyone who decides to go this route, I will advocate that to have a plan B just in case it doesn’t work out.
I do want to note some real life example that I have witnessed. One example is a student that I know from a previous internship during grad school. She would fly out to Los Angeles over the weekend to record and come to school and still managed to get a high GPA. Her band now has 260,000 listeners on Spotify and counting. I also had the opportunity to teach a student years ago that was a published author that had sold over 1,000+ copies of a novel prior to him graduating high school.
Again, I will admit that this option is VERY competitive and the odds aren’t great in becoming the next great celebrity personality. However, I will not pretend like this isn’t an option. If your child is going to go down this path then it is important they have your support. The common denominator among all those that do pursue this option is possessing a go-getter attitude and not settling for no as an answer. They will possess the ability to network easily. Lastly, they will continue to learn new skills to better their craft. It takes hard work but it is not impossible.
Develop High Demand Skills
What are skills that are in high demand? I can list a couple of these skills. Being able to speak multiple languages and tech related skills are among many skills that companies are dying for their employees to have. In case anyone doesn’t know, we are living in the 21st century and the world isn’t slowing down for anyone. The economies of the world are very dependent upon each other more than any other period in time. To pair with the increase of a global economy, technology is rapidly expanding year to year. I mention this due to the fact we must prepare our children for a world that wasn’t around when we were children.
For myself, I am actively teaching my daughter Spanish even though I am not a native speaker. A link to tips I give for children learning another language is here. I place higher value in my daughter gaining skills that will boost a resume over her just getting straight A’s. I do want her to do her best in school but I will be okay with her getting a “C”. Getting straight A’s does not always translate to getting a high demand job.
To get one of these jobs, developing the skills through online seminars, technical schools, or even learning on your own through programs such as ed2go can take you very far. Many of these skills such as learning animation, video editing, and coding can be learned without college. The emergence of YouTube also helps with someone learning new skills as well. This translates to little debt and possessing work ready skills.
When reading the title of this article, you might have had different thoughts about college not being for everyone. I strongly support this notion because it is the absolute truth. However, I also support that students receive some sort of postsecondary training. This can be some sort of formal training like an apprenticeship or informally through a business seminar. We put too much pressure on our children that they have to learn simply for high stakes testing.
Instead, I believe we should have them learn for the sake of learning and give them opportunities to explore their interests. These interests could translate to the next million dollar company. The likelihood of that isn’t great but you could witness your child become an independent and successful adult while doing something they enjoy. To me, I believe it will be very rewarding to witness my daughter becoming successful. Remember, success is defined differently to everyone so allow your child to define what it means to them. Help them be realistic with their goals and explore any plan B’s if needed. I guarantee you they will love you very dearly for your support.
Are there any alternatives that I did not cover in this post? Feel free to comment below. Your suggestions could inspire a path for someone else’s child to explore.
Cameron is the creator of Supportive Fathers. He created Supportive Fathers as a way to help explore topics other dads encounter in everyday life. Cameron is very passionate about being a father to 2 year old daughter as well as being the husband possible to his wife. To read more of his story, please click here.