Ep 59: College, Careers, and Becoming Adult

Barbara Schneider, co-author of “Becoming Adult”, speaks with Andy about her research on how teens’ environment can influence their thoughts and beliefs on college, work, and what’s possible for them.

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Full show notes

Here’s a surprising fact: most teens have NO idea what they want to do when they “grow up.” And even the ones who do have no idea how to get there. Unfortunately, this can make it more difficult for teens to get through college in in concise timeframe and find their place in the world. Luckily, we can help you understand how to help your teenager find their passion.

Having a vocation can mean a world of difference when it comes to helping your teen prepare for the future. A strong passion can make clear the steps your child needs to take in order to succeed in a competitive world. However, teens often view the tasks they have to complete -like math homework or going to college- as work, something that they have to do because they’re told to it. Without meaning or purpose, your teenager’s responsibilities become synonymous with another way to pass the time.

So, how are you supposed to know how to help your teenager find their passion when It’s hard for them to distinguish between what they have to do and what they want to do. This can deter adolescents from engaging their responsibilities and prevent them from looking to the future with excitement. They may grow frustrated at having to switch jobs every two years – and in turn it makes their parents question if their teen will ever find their place in the workforce. That’s why the focus of our Talking to Teens podcast this week is vocational preparation and how to help your teenager find their passion.

This week I spoke with Barbara Schneider, researcher and author of Becoming Adult: How Teenagers Prepare for the World of Work about career opportunities, planning for the future, and how foster a productive environment for kids. She is a distinguished professor in the College of Education and Department of Sociology at Michigan State University and the co-author of 15 books, numerous journal articles, and previous editor of Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis and Sociology of Education. If anyone knows how to help your teenager find their passion, it’s Barbara.

Barbara’s research and teaching focus on understanding teen psychology. More specifically, how the social contexts of schools and families influence the academic and social well-being of adolescents as they move into adulthood. With a particular emphasis on improving educational opportunities for students with limited economic and social resources, her research can show you how to help your teenager find their passion.

In the book, she conducted a study following teenagers’ journey from high school into adulthood. By focusing on how entering college shifted their perceptions of work, Schneider found that exposing teens to different experiences is how to help your teenager find their passion. Primarily, we talk about the exposure of two key insights:
  1. What Kinds of Jobs Actually Exist
  2. Balanced Perspective (Outlook) to Work
During our conversation, Barbara clued me in on how to help your teenager find their passion through exposure to broad career opportunities and a mindset prepared for the future. We also discuss the concept of work “flow,” the Path Model schematic, and different ways to access these focal points with your teen so that you can explore their vocation together. Here’s how it works:

Can you See the Future from Where You’re At?

A primary unanticipated reason why teenagers don’t know what to do in life is because they aren’t aware of what’s out there. How are you supposed to know that you really wanted to be a film editor or a biochemist if you didn’t know those jobs existed in the first place? The answer is, you don’t! For parents, knowing how to help your teenager find their passion starts with exposing your kids to what kinds of jobs actually exist. Teens need to be made aware of all the potential options that are available to pursue because their vocation could be hiding among them.

Exploring different kinds of occupations can help your teen identify a career they’re passionate about by following paths that experts have created in their respective fields. According to Schneider, one place you can take actionable steps to locate mentors and widen your teen’s sphere of information is within your own community!

It’s a good idea to start broadening your teen’s awareness of careers with local options. There are shared cultural values and cognizance in communities that your child might find accessible. This might mean doing outreach in your community through basic web searches, visiting local business centers, and paying regular visits to the library, a popular cultural hub for organizing. You can also speak directly with others at communal events like concerts, holiday gatherings, and art showcases.

Schneider suggests that niche communities are also a good place to expose your teen to more opportunities because they’re more likely to find experts who are passionate about what they do. She says it’s how you can get connected to people who are animators or engineers, artisan experts with insight into a particular craft.

Specialists can be found locally in almost any trade and truly educate you on how to help your teenager find their passion with the know-how they’ve acquired through experience. They can inform you about what programs and prerequisites your child should pursue, further exposing your teen to new potential interests.

Exposure to experts in their field is another way that teens can learn about what options are even open to them and how to pursue those interests. Consequently, exposing your teen to broad opportunities is how to help your teenager find their passion and the actionable steps to pursue it.

What Does Your Teen Feel About Work?

Knowing how to help your teenager find their passion can only be accomplished if you know what their relationship to work is like. In the podcast, Barbara classifies teens into several categories that can help us understand how teens interpret their responsibilities. Chief among these classifications are “the workers” and “the players.”

According to Barbara, workers want straight A’s and will put in the effort to get there. However, someone with a labor-intensive mindset might view their responsibilities according – work! This perspective might minimize someone’s passion for their responsibilities because they conceive agendas as a series of necessary tasks. Think of this personality as the opposite of Emerson’s proverb, “It’s not the destination. It’s the journey.” A worker is all about the destination.

If you’re a player, all you want to do is have a good time! Players might make the most of their situation and look for a silver lining in their tasks, but they don’t perceive their workloads as such. They don’t really consider the consequences of their actions in a serious way and therefore lack a consistent ability to plan ahead.

Exposing your teens to a balance between the two perspectives can transform how your teen comprehends their duties. When you can find a way to make it so that your interests became your main source of self-sufficiency, you’d be both excited for your job as well as aware of the consequences. Understanding how to help your teen find their passion means giving them the mindset explore their interests with determination.

You can expose your teen develop a balanced perspective on work with some rudimentary questions, such as:
  • “What’s the most important thing in school you wish you could do more of?”
  • “Is it working in the newspaper?” Is it taking another course from a good teacher?”
  • “How can you expand on those interests and investigate work opportunities that will allow you to do more of what you love?”
These inquiries orient your child’s mindset to emphasize what’s important to them. They help your teen find meaning, purpose, and relevance in their tasks, and over time, their life’s work. When your teen is able to relate to their responsibilities with excitement and diligence, this combination develops into a passion. When this passion is applied to an understanding of the opportunities that are available to them, your teen will have a clear path to a sustainable vocation.

There’s so Much More!

In the interview Barbara walks me through the concepts of “flow” as well as the Path Model schematic, which determines how your child can better spend their time. In addition to hearing about how to help your teenager find their passion using these effective tools, you will discover:
  • How to interrogate the effectiveness of your teen’s learning environment
  • The main factors that lead teens to attend college
  • Developing a more productive atmosphere
I had a great time speaking with Barbara about her research this week and all the ways how to help your teenager find their passion. Her findings are applicable to teens of any age range and they’re easy to implement in your own life. I learned so much listening to her, and I know you will, too!

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Creators and Guests

Andy Earle
Andy Earle
Host of the Talking to Teens Podcast and founder of Write It Great
Ep 59: College, Careers, and Becoming Adult
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