Personal strength expert Marcus Buckingham answers three questions from readers who recognize their strengths but are unsure what career move to make. Ask Marcus your career question
Q: My 17-year-old twins, George and Rachel, are seniors in high school. We are overwhelmed with all of the college choices. In an effort to narrow down those choices, both twins took the Strong Life Test. George's results were Teacher/Advisor. Rachel's were Creator/Caretaker. George has "no idea what he wants to do." Rachel wants to be a special education teacher with the goal of eventually opening up her own therapeutic riding facility. As a parent, how can I best support George and Rachel?
— Katherine, age 51
Katherine, although your kids seem to be at very different stages of the decision-making process, with Rachel more certain of her future path and George still trying to figure out what to study, your support for both of them should have essentially the same goal: Help them to find opportunities to expose themselves to what they want to do.
In George's case, since he doesn't see his path right now, he should take two weeks and spend five or 10 minutes each day taking an inventory of how he felt about what he did that day (include weekends and nonacademic activities too). What was the highlight of his day? How did it make him feel? If he could repeat one activity, what would it be? After two weeks, see what patterns have emerged and how his strengths have manifested themselves. Then, help him to extrapolate from his strengths inventory to figure out what academic subjects or careers will give him the best chance to play to those strengths. Given his lead role, George may make a great teacher—but don't assume that he actually has to be a teacher to realize his potential. Teachers can make excellent managers in the corporate world, for instance, because they are drawn to mentoring talented people.
Rachel has wonderfully specific thoughts about what she wants to do. That's fantastic—but help her to make sure that her decisions are based on reality and not on falling in love with the vision in her head. So provide her with opportunities to test her theory. Can she shadow a special education teacher, or volunteer in a classroom? Keep in mind that as a Creator, Rachel probably needs time to herself to think things over—but having someone to talk to about it can help her to stop mulling and start acting. With both of your kids, be curious first, critical second. Help them to ask more questions about the "what" of what they want to do.
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