Preparing Kids for the Future: Tips and Resources

Every kid dreams about what they want to be when they grow up. Whether they envision taking care of animals, playing professional sports, or singing the next chart-topping single, kids aren’t afraid to dream big. Preparing kids for the future may seem daunting, but parents can help by being supportive and open-minded.

Once they reach upper middle school and high school, encourage your kids to actively explore career fields that interest them. Whether they shadow a working professional for the day or land a summer job, it’s important for kids to gain real-world experience. Especially before they head off to college or technical school. It’s never too early to dream about the future! 

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Preparing kids for the future starts with talking to them about their career aspirations. Where do they see themselves in ten or fifteen years? Does college seem appealing? Maybe a trade school? Or even something completely different?

Encourage your child to take a free career assessment online to evaluate their interests. Websites like the Princeton Review offer free career quizzes, while websites like 16 Personalities and 123Test give insight into the best career choices for each personality type.

The South Dakota Department of Labor & Regulation can also help kids explore their options. They provide career booklets for pre-K, elementary, and middle school students, available online as a free download. Check out and search for Career Wonders for more information. 

If they still aren’t sure what they’d like to do, volunteering is a great way to start! They can help organizations around the Black Hills in a variety of roles. The best part? They’ll help those in need while they gain experience.

Job search: Where do you start?

You’ve narrowed down your child’s interests — now it’s time to start the job hunt! 

Help your child search for promising opportunities on job websites, and encourage them to cold-call businesses where they’d enjoy working. Typical jobs for teenagers include lifeguarding, babysitting, retail, and landscaping. Seasonal, entry-level positions are also available in parks and recreation departments, hospitals, nursing homes, event centers, and libraries.

Preparing Kids for Future Careers

Most businesses and companies encourage applicants to submit a resume, including retail and fast-food chains. 

Even if your teenager has no work experience, their resume should showcase their volunteer work, extracurricular involvement, and soft skills. Did they participate in a leadership camp last summer? Go on a mission trip? Start a school club? Don’t be afraid to brag!


Maybe your child or teenager is an entrepreneur at heart — nothing excites them more than opening a lemonade stand in the summer or selling homemade bracelets at a local craft fair. Starting a business will introduce them to important skills such as money management, marketing, and customer service. 

If your child is trying to come up with a business idea, encourage them to make a list of their favorite activities. Do they enjoy making art? Playing with animals? Sewing? 

Whether your child offers dog walking services or sells homemade greeting cards, remember that the outcome is less important than the experience they’ll gain.

Job Shadowing & Apprenticeships

What better way to learn about a job than by spending a day in the life of a professional? 

If you live in Rapid City, RCAS organizes job shadowing and youth internship programs for high school students. RCAS shadowing programs give students the opportunity to gain real-world experience within an industry or local business. 

If your kids don’t attend an RCAS school, there are other programs available. The Department of Labor & Regulation provides information about student job shadowing and internships. Check out their Career Launch program for more information.  

The state also offers youth apprenticeships for high school juniors and seniors through the StartTodaySD program. Students can choose to learn a technical skill such as carpentry, plumbing, pipe fitting, or welding. During their apprenticeship, students learn a highly sought-after trade while earning paycheck and, in some cases, post-secondary credits.

The biggest thing to remember when preparing kids for the future is to let them guide the conversation. Listen and be supportive of what they want to try, even if it’s something you had no idea they were interested in. You never know what they’ll grab onto!