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Its never too soon to start

Dave Carpenter
Mary Smaby, left, and her two daughters Monique, 17, and Camille, 15, sitting on couch, are with Carol Christen, back, author of the book What Color is Your Parachute? For Teens. Career counseling for teens is gaining popularity across the country.
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CHICAGO Mary Ann Smaby didnt get much formal advice on what to do with her life when she was a teenager and she wasnt inclined to ask for it. Career planning? That waited until well into college.But the real estate broker wanted to jump-start her children much sooner, so she took her two teenage daughters to a professional career counselor this spring.Its a move other parents are making, too, amid what some say is an intensifying focus on career planning for kids.I want to expand their ideas, said the 46-year-old Smaby, of Atascadero, Calif. Todays generation of kids, they are going to have to be able to jump around a lot more so they have to have different skills. And theres so much out there.Skeptics might write off career counseling for children as the latest evidence of overambitious parents trying to ensure perfect life resumes for their kids from getting them into competitive preschools to elite universities and then right into ideal jobs.Carol Christen, co-author of the newly published career guide What Color Is Your Parachute? For Teens, sees it differently. Christen, who also is the career strategist advising the Smabys daughters Monique, 17, and Camille, 16, says too many baby boomers and other parents wrongly view college as a substitute for career preparation a very expensive substitute, she notes.Theres a lot of delusional thinking going on out there. … Parents just hand their children over to the educational conveyor belt and think it is going to happen, and it doesnt, the former educator said.Theres this huge sieve through which our young people are falling, she said. Most of them have no plans.As a cottage industry, fee-based career counseling for teens isnt yet booming like the growing industry linked to the admissions frenzy, where some parents pay thousands of dollars to tutors and counselors to try to get them in the door at top colleges.But there appears to be increasing evidence it is a growing business.California-based Eureka, one of numerous Web-based career information systems that market materials to schools, recently began selling subscriptions to individuals, including students. Boys & Girls Clubs of America has added a career search program for its 13- to 18-year-old members called CareerLaunch.CollegeRecruiter.com, a job site for students, added career counseling services as a paid product about a year ago, contracting with career counseling firms. The average cost is a pricey $2,000, according to Steven Rothberg, president and founder of the Minneapolis-based Web site.The counseling is expensive, so I dont think its going to take the world by storm, he acknowledged. But career counseling for teens, he said, is definitely a growth area. Its gone from almost nothing about 10 years ago to being on the radar screen today partly a reflection, he said, of the growing phenomenon of helicopter parents who hover over their childrens lives.Overall, though, the price varies for such counseling, which might consist of assessments of a teens skills, personality traits and interests and advice about careers that match them.Vail, Colorado


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