Turning the start of term into the beginning of a happy career. Here is how:


Autumn is nearly here and the new academic term is starting. For me, this has always been an exciting time. A fresh start. It also meant new pens, folders, maybe some new subjects in school or finally studying just what I wanted at university.

Your child might feel excited. Or they might feel apprehensive about the change. Maybe they are going into their GCSE years, starting college or they are just off to university or into an apprenticeship. Of course, being a bit nervous is perfectly normal. It is in no way a sign they won’t cope, but it might help them to chat a little about the things they are looking forward to. Like focusing just on the courses they want to study or having much more freedom than they had at school.

The start of the new academic term is also a great opportunity to start laying some groundwork for a happy future career. Even if that is still years away and your teen has no specific ideas yet.

These don’t have to be big things either. Baby steps always add up. But looking out for opportunities early can open up lots of exciting options and means they are not likely to miss something because they didn’t know about it.

So here are some tips to make the start of term a start to a happy future too:

If they are in school:

Find out about the career support available in school: Who can they talk to about college, apprenticeships, and so on, and when are they available? Will everyone be offered a one-to-one careers guidance meeting automatically? How can they book a meeting if they have urgent questions? Where can they get college prospectuses?

Find out about work experience: Will they do work experience through school (usually in year 10 or 11)? If so, when will they get the information and who can they talk to about any questions? It is really worth getting the info early and to start looking for placements, as many can fill up very early. Often months in advance. But work experience is such a great thing to do to test an idea or simply get a feel for what work might be like.

Find out about careers events: Will there be any careers fairs or similar events in school where they can find out about local colleges, unis, and employers? When will they be and can parents attend too? Will a careers adviser be available at these events or maybe at the parents’ evenings?

If they are in year 11, they should also find out about the local college open days ASAP. Schools can usually give them a list.

If they are in college:

As soon as they are settled in, they should find out about the support offered by the careers team: Where is the careers department? Are drop-ins available and how can they book a longer appointment if they need help? What support is offered (e.g. for work experience, UCAS applications, career guidance meetings, part-time work, etc.)?

Check for any useful events run by the college, like careers fairs, employer or university visits, job fairs, and so on.

It’s also a good idea to find out the colleges approach to work experience: Is it part of the course they are studying? Is it optional/compulsory for all students at the college and run at a specific time of year? Or is it up to them what they choose to do? In which case, it goes back to checking for any support the careers department might be offering with this. Work experience is one of the most useful things they can do, be it to develop ideas or prepare for a specific career plan.

If they are starting university

You probably guessed it by now: They should check out the careers department as soon as they are settled and find out about the support and any events run. There are often many different things on offer, from CV writing to employer speed dating events.

Ask the course leader or similar about any work experience options/requirements/support via their course. This is particularly important for vocational courses that prepare for a specific career or industry. It may be part of the courses, but the support offered can vary significantly and it’s worth knowing early what they may need to do and when.

The end of their degree will seem a million miles away, but it is so worth exploring the careers support early AND using it from the first year. Not just in the last three months, when all final year students start to panic a bit. This will give them time to make use of the different events, get guidance and support from the universities careers adviser, and explore ideas and interests without the final year pressures.

It’s the optional stuff that makes them stand out

Whatever stage they are in, looking at the support available early, often before they feel they need it, is really useful. It can take a lot of pressure off them once they are getting to the end of their courses and are choosing the next step.

Encourage them to use what is on offer for their exploration. It doesn’t have to be about choosing a career path at all. Attending fairs, employer visits, and doing work experience can be invaluable to developing ideas and also becoming more confident when talking to employers.

Remind them that the things they choose to do are the ones that make them stand out from the crowd. Most people don’t do work experience unless they have to, or choose to take an interview training session alongside their studies. But these could be the things that help them decide on where they want to go next and to stand out when they decide to apply.

So what next?

Have a chat with your teen about the things they are planning to look into when they start the new term. If checking out the careers support is not on the list yet, gently suggest it.

It doesn’t have to be in the first week! But encourage them to keep an eye out in the first term and to actually consider taking up some of the offers. It often simply doesn’t occur to them until they are under pressure to make choices about the next step.

Even if you just convince them to get YOU a list of the local college open days from the school or the date for the careers fair so you can pop it on the calendar. Most things don’t have to be done straight away, but it helps to know when things are coming up and who to go to for help before they need it.

You can find lots more tips in my free Facebook group for parents here. Look out for my free college options training for parents this half term too!

And if you and your teen would like some individual support, you can book a careers guidance session here.

Hi, I’m Theresa!

I’m here to help you and your teen find their Cheerful Career!

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