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So I did this (apparently) weird thing. When each of my kids turned fifteen, I took them on The Great Career Adventure. Okay, it’s a really big name for a way I created for my kids to narrow down their passions and skills into a career they would enjoy and make a living from.

When Nathan turned fifteen I told him to choose three jobs or skills he thought he might want to do when he grew up. He only chose one-a police officer. I made an appointment with the local police department for us to sit down and talk with a police officer. Nathan wrote down ten questions to ask and we were ready for the next step.

We toured the entire police department and Nathan got to sit inside a police car. He asked the officer his ten questions, which included: what kinds of skills and education would he need, how much would his starting salary potentially be, what were the officer’s favorite parts of his job, and what were his least favorite? Of course I asked Nathan to write a thank you note to the officer.

Nathan discovered that, while he didn’t have to have a college degree, it does help with promotions and pay. Surprisingly we found out that he shouldn’t get a degree in Criminal Justice-the officer said he would learn all of that in the police academy. Instead the officer suggested a degree in Communications, because police officers spend a lot of time communicating through writing and talking.

I suggested Nathan look at the National Guard for supplemental income-my mother had taught with a couple of men who had utilized the Guard for extra pay and benefits. So Nathan applied to the Texas National Guard at seventeen and went to basic training the year between his sophomore and junior years in high school.

As Nathan drilled with the Guard during his senior year of high school, he realized his calling and passion were the military. So now at twenty-three years old he is a Staff Sergeant with the Texas National Guard and finishing up his senior year of college. He has found where God wants him to be, which was my hope.

Cameron turned fifteen and we started on the next Great Career Adventure. Same as his brother, Cameron only had one passion: graphic design. I found a graphic designer, and the three of us sat down with Cameron’s fifteen questions. Cameron also wrote a thank you note, and included a drawing of his favorite cartoon character.

Cameron discovered that graphic designers do need some sort of education, whether it’s technical school, community college, or a four year degree. He also discovered that there are several career paths: freelance, working for an agency with many clients, or working for a private company. Each path has pro’s and con’s, and you can be on more than one path at the same time.

For example, Cameron learned that freelancing is the most creative, but being your own boss means no benefits and can lead to working nonstop. As a single person, freelance is a good fit. Once you marry and have a family, working for a private company will offer the most benefits, but won’t have the variety that freelance offers. A good compromise is to keep connections in the freelance world and continue to do projects on the side, while enjoying the stable hours and good benefits with a private company. Agencies are a nice hybrid, but the jobs are few and far between, and the hours can be just as crazy as freelancing.

Cameron used his information to choose a university, and selected one that recruited out of the two cities he wanted to live. He also chose this university for their stellar art program and the abundance of internships available. He is a junior now and enjoys his classes more and more each semester.

Are you thinking about taking your child on The Great Career Adventure? Here are some suggestions;

1. Let your child choose three paths no matter how ridiculous or unprofitable they seem. I pictured Cameron as a starving artist when he chose graphic design. So imagine my surprise to find out they can make some serious cash.

2. If your child cannot narrow down his choices, suggest an aptitude test. My friend’s son took the Myers-Briggs, and it led him straight to a degree in nano-technology.

3. Let your child create the questions first, then review them together and make small suggestions. Both my children wrote down “How much money do you make?” so we tailored it to “How much money could I expect to make my first year?” I explained that it’s rude to ask someone how much money they earn. For the police officer, I suggested Nathan ask about other benefits, such as pension and health insurance, which are fairly standard to all departments and should be included with the salary.

4. You will probably need to find the expert to interview, but let your child drive the interview. At the end, when they are wrapping up, you can then ask any questions you might have. Make sure to get the expert’s contact information so your child can write a thank you note.

5. Remember this is your child’s career-not yours. Help him or her understand the pro’s and con’s of the career. Remember that not everyone wants to make six figures, or only work thirty hours a week. My son was not able to finish ROTC because he couldn’t get a waiver for his eyesight, and I worried about him being a noncommissioned officer for the rest of his life. But I tell you-that kid has more money in his bank account at any given time of the month than I do! He is already saving for retirement through the military and also has an investment advisor working with him.

Please comment and let me know your thoughts on this post-let me know what you think.