The Power of Career Role Models for Kids

For Parents Dec 15, 2021

More than 75% of all American children say their teachers, coaches, family members, family friends, and community leaders are the role models they look up to every day. Role models offer inspiration and motivation, but they also offer real-world insights into the world.

That’s important because we have a long way to go if we are to bridge the gap of women in STEM jobs in the US. Some 66% of 4th-grade girls love science, but that translates to a paltry representation of 25% in actual STEM jobs by the time those girls become working women.

Yes, there’s a decline in self-confidence as girls move from middle school and high school, but there’s also a lack of knowledge and understanding about the STEM fields. By targeting career information toward girls, the "Inspire Her Mind" campaign was able to inspire 76% of girls to become interested in engineering.

There’s so much more we can do for our kids to encourage them, which is what career role models are about. You need role models and mentors to help you learn. Your kids need that too. That’s why career role models are so important.

What Are Career Role Models?

Career role models: Kids need role models that look like them, especially when it comes to helping in their careers.
Photo by Jerry Wang on Unsplash

You probably already know the importance of role models. Positive role models are important because they help kids stay out of trouble and make healthier life choices. Career role models take the idea of mentorship a step further by acting as a conduit for sharing details related to careers, jobs, and learning.

Career role models can and should incorporate diversity, not only by modeling respect for diversity but also by being the role model that can look like the kids. Studies indicate 69% of role models are white men even though they make up 31% of the US population. Kids need role models who look like them.

What Is the Impact of Career Role Models for Kids?

A Career Role Model is the perfect person to encourage interest in STEM fields. You may have seen professionals present to a group of young kids. Whether the person is a scientist, engineer, programmer, mathematician, or other technical guru, they represent a real-world example of how to succeed in a STEM career.

Tips to Establish a Positive Role Model for Your Kid

There are great ways to establish a positive role model for your kid. Whether your child's role model is you or someone else, here are a few tips for how to establish a positive role model for your child.

  • Keep a positive attitude. Your kids will learn by watching you. So, if you have a positive attitude, they are more likely to emulate that behavior. Studies indicate that positive thinking can lead to more confidence, which contributes to success.
  • Work toward a healthy lifestyle. Mentorship has a positive effect on a young person's physical and mental health. For kids challenged by physical self-perceptions, fitness, and physical activities, a role model offers encouragement and a real-world example of how a healthy lifestyle can positively affect one's life and success.
  • Demonstrate why education is important. A big part of mentorship is encouraging personal and professional development. Personal development may involve encouraging a child to recognize their own talents and encourage them to step outside their comfort zone. Professional development typically involves demonstrating the benefits of education, but also encouraging self-directed learning for each child.

Role models are important figures, who offer essential clues to identity and career achievement. When they engage with kids, career role models offer insight into life's challenges, while encouraging growth and increasing self-reliance.

Photo of a teacher with a student, the power of becoming a role model is setting an example for children to see themselves in future roles.
Image via - Vanessa Garcia 

How to Become a Role Model for Your Kids?

Kid career role models are important because they allow your children to see and experience what it’s like to be in a STEM or other career field. It’s something to look forward to, but it’s also a way for your kids to see and appreciate what you do.

A mentorship relationship with your child may allow you to reframe your relationship. Here are a few ways to become a role model for your kids.

  • Offer Hope: Beyond simply exemplifying a positive attitude, you are the greatest purveyor of hope your child has. That hope will also be instrumental in your child's future success.
  • Practice Active Listening: You probably "listen" for 70-80% of your day, but how effectively you listen makes a difference. If you're listening to complaining or nagging for 30+ minutes every day, you could be damaging the part of your brain that handles problem-solving. Learn how to practice active listening.
  • Create a Safe Space: Kids need to feel like they have a safe space to explore their hopes and dreams no matter how unrealistic they may be. They need a space where they can leave behind the challenges they currently face. they need to believe they have a future.
  • Continue to Learn. You're not just demonstrating the importance of education, you should also continue to learn yourself. Just because you're in your career, doesn't mean you know everything there is to know. Your child needs to know you must and should learn throughout your life. It doesn't have to be mind-numbingly dry and boring. Learning can be fun and it can incorporate people, places, and experiences along with a host of amazing multimedia resources.

Career role models offer a wealth of insight and inspiration, but they often get as much or more out of the relationship. Working together to learn and grow is almost always an amazing experience. It's an adventure you won't soon forget.

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