Kent ISD workshop shows parents how to help students explore careers

About 20 parents participated in a recent workshop on making career choices

Paul and Jenny Truax are proud parents as they watch their three teenaged sons prepare for different futures. Their 17-year-old twins and 19-year-old son are each looking at different career paths.

One is fascinated by music and science, another has taken up photography and one is undecided. “They’re figuring out where they are and I think we’ve done a good jobs of letting them be,” said Paul.

They want to make sure their sons have all the information they need as they step out into their careers. Thus, they were among 20 parents who recently participated in a two-hour seminar “Career Coaching for Parents” at Kent ISD.

Kent ISD facilitator Krista Harmon shows parents how to coach their teenagers on making career choices

The parents left with packets of resources, advice and sympathy from Krista Harmon, a facilitator with Kent ISD’s Career Readiness Department. Harmon jokingly says her three daughters, aged 18, 20 and 22, also serve as her test cases.

In the packets were materials including several career guides. One of these, the “Holland Island Vacation Planner,” asks users to choose from a series of fictional “islands” on which they can spend a week’s vacation. The guide describes a variety of settings aimed at people with differing interests and can help point readers to one they’d most enjoy. The “islands” correspond to different types of work and work environments.

Harmon also provided parents with lists of companies that offer open house events and job shadow opportunities for students.

Other materials include self-assessment tools and “Story of My Life’ timelines which allow parents and teens to discuss and explore their career path decisions. Harmon also points parents to websites that offer guidance like “MyNextMove.org.” She also demonstrated how Google.com can help students research careers through “reverse job searches.”

Three more sessions are available this year for parents. See the Career Readiness Department webpage to register.

For teenagers, talking to parents about career plans can be stressful and sometimes, an act of rebellion. “There’s a lot of emotion around this,” she says.

Parents attending a career coaching workshop are given materials that can be used to help their teens discover their career path

Some of the parents said they can relate to the conflict the discussions can create. “My daughter told us she’s going into the National Guard and there’s nothing we can do about it,” one of the parents said.

“Teens are commonly very anxious or fearful of making career decisions,” Harmon says. “They see the decision as irrevocable and worry if they make the wrong decision, they are doomed.”

While parents may find themselves steering their children towards a career, Harmon advocates a coaching approach in which the teenagers are allowed chart their own path. “You have to stop back and let them find their own gifts.”

Wendy Koelewyn said she attended Harmon’s workshop because she wants to make sure her youngest son, a junior at Kent Innovation High School, takes advantage of all the tools available for making a career choice.

“All of my other kids have done really well for themselves,” said the mother of six. “My son isn’t going the four-year college route. I just want to learn what I can and not manipulate him.”

Parent Wendy Koelewyn attended a career coaching workshop because she wants her son to advantage of all the tools available for making a career choice
James Harger
James Harger reported on West Michigan's economy, courts and politics for The Grand Rapids Press and Mlive.com for more than 37 years. He also is employed as Servanthood Leader at Immanuel Lutheran Church in downtown Grand Rapids. A graduate of Central Michigan University, he also has worked for publications in Holland, Mount Pleasant and Lansing. He is married to Lisa and has one daughter, who lives in Ann Arbor. Read James' full bio.

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