Asking the right questions as a parent is crucial to your teenager's success. The sooner you start having genuine conversations, the sooner you can guide their choices to help them pursue their dreams.

Helping your teenager plan for their future can be challenging. When they have to start thinking about subject selection, university pathways, extra curriculars and part-time jobs it can quickly seem overwhelming.

This guide can help with a range of questions to help get your teen thinking about their future. Remember to ask and not tell, really listen, and make sure your child knows you're not judging — no matter what their answers are. 

Character based questions

What are five words that describe you?

This question helps you understand how your high schooler sees themself. It can also be very helpful in understanding where they think they fit in the world.

Listen out for key words and attributes that may indicate their suitability for certain jobs or industries. If they describe themselves as organised, maybe a career in business or tourism and events is in their future. Or perhaps you could suggest a job in child or health care if they see them themselves as empathetic or caring. It's a broad question, but a good place to start if they don't know what they want to do.

If you could be famous, what would it be for?

This question can help you figure out what your teenager is passionate about. The meaning of success is different for everyone. Is it about money, leaving a legacy, making a difference, or something else? Use their answer to dive into the cause or issue and why it's important to them.

If your teen wants to be famous for making a difference, then a career in health or community services is a great starting point. If they have a natural talent they want to pursue then a course in fashion, music, or screen and media could get them there. Or if financial freedom is at the top of their priority list, then maybe a corporate career in businessaccounting or a trade is more up their alley. 

Emotion based questions

What do you love doing?

"If you love what you do you'll never work a day in your life", or so the saying goes. But the reality is most people end up working simply to support themselves. This question can help you open your teen's eyes to activities that make them happy. Once you've figured that out, see if they can make a career out of it. 

For example, a lot of people enjoy video games — and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Researchers at Deakin University have even found that gaming can make you more employable. If your teen enjoys computer or video games perhaps they're suited to a future career in games, design, screen and media, or ICT.

What's your favourite subject? 

This question will help you figure out what your teenager enjoys in terms of their academic pursuits. If they enjoy English, maybe a career in communication or marketing is their calling.  If they excel in home economics, perhaps a future in hospitality or cookery is on the cards. Or if they love robotics then you could prompt them to consider a career in electrotechnology or engineering.

Would you be happy as a ...?

This question is best asked when you come across different jobs together to get your teen thinking about different career paths.

When you're kicking around the footy ask if they think they'd be happy in sport or outdoor recreation? If you're watching Brooklyn 99 find out if they've considered working in crime and justice. Or the next time you go to the hairdresser, ask if it's a career path they've considered.

Future thinking questions

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Beyond high school, university or those first few years out in the workforce can seem like a long time away for your teenager. Whether your teen has a short or long list of things they want to accomplish, the hard part is following a strategy that lets them achieve their dreams. Setting goals can be a tricky business but it's a worthwhile conversation to have. If you're SMART about it, it may help you and your teenager make confident choices about their future. 

What job or career do you want?

Simple and direct. If your teen knows that they want, it can cut a lot of confusion and stress out of their senior schooling years. If they're not sure sure, a personality quiz like myPROFILER or the Discover My Career tool by Harrison Assessments can help them narrow it down. 

Whatever your teenager is interested in, TAFE Queensland is here to help. They can even get started while they're still at school or explore alternative university pathways.


Sign up to TAFE Queensland updates to receive a free copy of the 'Parents' guide for surviving senior schooling and beyond'.

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