Sometimes we don’t actually need to wait for our teenagers to roll their eyes or challenge our credibility because we know that we don’t really know all the answers. Guiding them toward a career path can feel like one of those times.
We might start with our own experiences, but our kids know them; plus we’re so far down this path that it may be hard for them to see our experiences as shared or relatable in any way.
Guidance counselors may offer logical deductions, like, so, you’re doing well in math and you like art, maybe you should become an architect. Or not.
We all know those people who love their job so much “it doesn’t feel like work.” They have great tales of how they found satisfying careers. Unfortunately, these one-of-a-kind examples can be hard to extrapolate to kids who aren’t even half-way through high school.
The truth is, in order to find your calling, you have to be able to listen to yourself. Teenagers spend so much time buried in course work, extracurriculars, and socializing that it may take the quiet of summer for them to hear their own thoughts. When we enroll our kids in Jewish summer programs, they get that necessary headspace, guidance, independence, community, and opportunity to better understand who they are today in order to define what they want to do tomorrow.
Jewish summer programs give teens opportunities to:
Uncover their Jewish identity
Synagogue life and Hebrew school have a role in creating connections to Jewish identity. For some kids it’s an obligation rather than calling. Summer camps are the places where Jewish identities are really formed. Whether it’s through opportunities to lead or follow, take on physical challenges or self reflect, or just meet teens from all over, Jewish summer programs and camps give teenagers the opportunity to better understand who they are and how they fit into the world.
Identify personal values
From social action to socializing, teens engage in activities that help them build a firm set of personal values through which they can evaluate decisions as they move into adulthood. Jewish summer programs are full of opportunities that help teens figure out what’s most important to them.
Try new experiences
With so much focus on taking high school courses to prepare for college, sometimes teenagers miss opportunities to step out of their comfort zone, trying everything from gardening, drama, and the fine arts, to taking a trip to Israel.
Learn from peers
Research from the Jim Joseph Foundation shows that young Jewish adults who work at summer programs are close enough in age to teens that they find them relatable. Plus, post-college 20-somethings are new enough to the job market that they make great resources.
Not worry about what everyone else is doing
The community aspect of summer programs allows teens to have the shared experiences that ground them in the same traditions, music, food, and fun, while also building their confidence to then go in the direction that calls to them personally.
By giving teens opportunities to understand more about themselves, when they begin actively exploring careers through college visits, declaring majors, holding internships, and conducting job searches, it will be easier for them to recognize the one that’s right for them.