10 Conversation Starters to Get Your Teen Thinking About STEM

January 29, 2024

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Getting teens to open up about their career aspirations can be daunting, but it’s an essential first step to spark insightful discussions about their futures. With some thoughtful questions and gentle guidance along the way, you can empower teens to start mapping out their path.

Here are 10 conversation starters to help you guide your teen in their STEM journey:
1. What is an interest or skill you have now that you would like to carry into your future career?

Use your teen’s interests and dreams to drive their career exploration. By connecting current interests and skills with potential career paths, you can help your teen set the stage for an exciting and fulfilling future.

2. If you could have any job in the world, what would it be? What about that job appeals to you?

By talking through dream jobs, you can get a sense of who might be a good role model for your teen. Highlighting diverse role models who have succeeded in STEM careers can inspire teens and help them see what’s possible. For inspiration, share this fun resource showcasing the innovative scientists that make up our Tech for Global Good Laureates!

3. When you imagine your future career, what does a typical day look like? What sorts of things are you working on?

Talk through which types of work environments your teen could envision themselves thriving in. Would they prefer a more structured 9-5 office job, or do they want to be out in the field? Understanding their preferences can help identify STEM careers that are a good match!

4. What problems or issues in the world interest you? What kinds of jobs could you do to help address those issues?

2021 Tech for Global Good Laureate Buzz Solutions uses artificial Intelligence to detect anomalies and damage in power lines, allowing utility companies to quickly address issues and prevent blackouts and forest fires. Learn More

Encouraging teens to think about the problems and issues they are passionate about will help them discover how their interests can align with a career in STEM. Are they interested in tackling climate change? Consider roles in renewable energy or environmental science careers. Are they concerned about the health and well-being of others? Biomedical engineering, medicine, or healthcare technology might be their path.

5. If you could invent something that would make the world better, what would you create? What skills would you need to develop to make that invention?

At its core, this question helps teens to become creative problem-solvers. We want to reinforce the idea that they have the ability to contribute to the betterment of the world through STEM.

A high school participant at our annual Pave it Forward Mentoring Lunch.

6. What YouTube channels or podcasts do you enjoy? What careers relate to those topics?

From Mark Rober to Simone Giertz, by identifying the career pathways related to their favorite content, teens can see how their passion may translate into a future STEM career.

7. What extracurricular activities or hobbies seem interesting to you right now? Do any of those relate to future career options?

Really listen and let your teen dream big at this stage — this is about getting them to open up about what motivates them and what they care about! Encourage your teen to reflect on the activities that bring them joy, the problems they enjoy tackling, and the topics that truly captivate them. Share your insights into their temperament and strengths — turn it into an exciting exploration of their unique qualities.

8. What steps do you think you’ll have to take to get to your future career?

The Tech Challenge invites teams of students in Grades 4-12 to use the engineering design process to solve a real-world problem. Learn More

There are a number of ways that your teen can explore and develop key skills toward a desired career. These might include formal classes such as computer science as well as after-school and summer workshops, STEM clubs or competitions.

We might also suggest breaking down big goals into smaller actionable steps (For example, instead of leading with “get a computer science degree,” start with “take an AP computer science class next year.)” Emphasizing short-term, attainable goals will enable your teen to maintain motivation and confidence as they progress toward more significant accomplishments. 

9. What are some companies or organizations that excite you?

By discussing opportunities that exist across industries, teens can begin to picture themselves working for these entities and motivate them to pursue a career path. Gladdeo Bay Area is a great resource that highlights a plethora of career pathways and opportunities!

10. How can I support you in your goals?

Remember to give teens the independence to explore on their own terms. The more you can empower their journey with emotional support, guidance when asked, and space to figure things out, the better! 

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