So instead of asking what do you want to be, we can help teens become more aware of their interests and skills sets by asking these questions:
- What academic subjects interest you most?
- What is the first subject you choose to study?
- What activity or area of study seems to come easier for you than others?
- If you have to spend an hour in a lecture, what topic would you choose?
- If you have to spend an hour doing an activity, what would it be?
As you begin to observe the areas of interest and areas of easy learning (aka, talents) in your student, consider helping them sort the interests and talents between these three areas of life: careers, hobbies, and ministries.
Career, Hobby, or Ministry
I have enjoyed watching the process of discovery for each of my children as they find what they want to do in order to earn money to be independent—their career. It’s not clear from the beginning, of course; it is a journey of discovery. Part of the journey is figuring out the difference between hobbies and careers. One child thought she wanted to be a career artist. However, when she got her first commissioned painting in high school, her excitement began to fade when she realized that she had to paint the same picture again; art became work instead of pleasure. The second commissioned painting depleted her joy for art even more since she had already made two just like it. We encouraged her to continue to paint, and we supported her with supplies and classes, but she put art back in the hobby category in her life and pursued a math major in college.
Music is another area that many students need to sort between the career, hobby, and ministry, categories. Once she begins studying music in college, will it continue to bring her the pleasure it did when it was a hobby? Is her skill set such that when the church requires her to play a certain type of music each week, or she teaches music to young children, she is energized by the work? It does for some, but others choose to keep it as a hobby.
Then consider the third category of ministry. A student considering work in youth ministry needs to sort out if she wants to make this a part-time, volunteer position or a long-term, full-time career. Or take, for example, a student whose passion is to help people caught in the human trafficking industry and thinks social work would be a career that includes ministry opportunities, when actually her talents tend more towards law, and she could make a bigger impact in the trafficking industry by working as a prosecuting attorney.
And when all is said and done, I hope that my kids find a career that will fund their hobbies and ministries!
The Journey of Discovery
Keep the conversation open so your student knows she is free to shift her interests and change direction during this journey through high school and college. This freedom for change and open communication makes the smaller decisions about class choices and summer jobs easier to make since they are just stepping-stones on the journey of figuring out her interests and talents. One of my children was majoring in marketing until she took a finance class and found it so interesting and “easy” that she knew that was a better use of her skill set. She could not have known this earlier in her college journey since she had no exposure to finance until her third year, but making the shift was seamless because she was already a business major. Her career path has since shifted into cyber security, a growing field that requires out-of-the-box thinkers and one that she would not have chosen in her teens because the industry was so new and no college was offering it as a major.
Encourage your teen on her journey of discovering God’s wonderful plan for her life.
“When we build on our strengths and daily successes — instead of focusing on failures — we simply learn more.” Tom Rath, Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements.