The impact of career coaching on school-aged children

Discover how to set the course for success for your children, and the impacts of career coaching with Karen McDowell Lomas, Professional Career Development Practitioner.

WORDS: Karen McDowell Lomas, Professional Career Development Practitioner

As I contemplate the issues facing our children in 2024, it is apparent to me that there are many factors that contribute to the stresses we so often read about for young children. Not least of these is the continuing impact of the covid-19 pandemic lockdowns, during which many babies were, of course, born (we did have a lot of free time, after all!) Toddlers and pre-schoolers missed entire semesters of educational settings and social interactions.

As a qualified and experienced Counsellor, specifically in the areas of Grief Counselling and Adolescent Counselling, I am learning with interest about these concerns. Meanwhile, I pay close attention to a myriad of other issues that impact our children.

I’m a mother myself. I raised my two daughters here in Australia, after relocating from the UK in 1995. My girls were educated in a system I didn’t understand well and so it was a big learning curve for me, as it is for many migrant families. Plus, systems evolve and this can be confusing even for those parents born here, in Australia.

I was lucky, I think. There was no Facebook, Instagram, TikTok or streaming of TV content when my girls were in junior school. This made the appeal of computers much less of a problem. They could “escape” playground troubles and they were not able to binge-watch television shows, let alone access reality programs and the ‘perfect’ images of ‘influencers’, that can and do wreak havoc upon even the most resilient child.

What is a career coach, how to choose one and how they can help?

A Professional Career Development Coach is a postgraduate level qualified practitioner who supports the progress of individuals who are demotivated, lacking in confidence and stuck in their career-life planning.

I became a Professional Career Coach, focusing upon children and youth groups, because I wanted my girls to have a better start than I did in England in the 1970s. I had no preparation for how to obtain my first job, nor did I know quite how to choose electives and subjects/courses later on. I went into my first career so completely naive about what my chosen profession was going to be like. I felt too afraid to push myself and become the” first in the family” to go to university. Instead, I “settled” for something that worked for a while, indeed I did excel through pushing myself. But after several years my career took its toll upon my physical and mental wellbeing.

Career development for primary school children

In order to support parents in having appropriate career conversations with their children, it can help enormously to seek the support of an experienced career coach. In my private practice, I’ll start with a “narrative approach” with small children. This begins with open questions and brief activities such as:

  •   describing why an object they have been asked to bring with them is special to them
  •   writing a short opening to a future-fantasy story about themselves
  •   choosing from a number of images/describing an image/photograph
  •   telling me about their favourite part of a recent holiday and why
  •   a gentle interrogation of their language and use of metaphor
  •   helping them to write a To-Do list


This is what is referred to as Creative Career Coaching, akin to the work of UK-based career practitioner, Liane Hambly. After all, most children love to draw figures, dress dolls (male and female) in costumes or name the shops and businesses that they like on their local high street.

My work has been with children as young as 11 years of age, including those who are taking entrance exams for selective entry schools. I’ve also supported families and their children in terms of decision-making around specialist education: Science Academies; Music or Art Schools. Largely what we are doing in these sessions will be around preparing the child for what might be their very first experience of a formal interview. Interview preparation seems to be an increasing part of my role in working with these age groups.

Besides this, I might discuss the educational alternatives that the family is contemplating, paying attention to the child’s interests, personality, plus the location and size of the various schools in question.

Educational testing versus career assessments

We are all familiar with the aptitudes-only assessments, the NAPLAN. Parents may share these results with me, or other assessments, such as obtained from a semester reports.

Some families may also have reports obtained from specialist child therapists, which can be helpful to the career coach.

Aptitude tests are helpful in part, but do not inform the career coach with sufficient information about your child. Academic ability is just one aspect of a person. Such tests do not reveal How a child prefers to learn, or How a child prefers to interact in a behavioural sense. Why is this important? Because Knowledge is Power.

Giving your child the opportunity to try something new that you might not have even been aware they had a curiosity for, could be life-changing for them. If they are reserved; displaying a slight preference for keeping their thoughts to themselves, we can support them in accepting this trait, whilst at the same time giving them tools to manage a noisy environment, or others whose energy might exhaust them.

The tools and assessments used by professional career coaches are all well researched and typically underpinned by psychological research, so that in the hands of a professional you can feel confident that they can benefit your child.


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