New studies show that young adults are taking longer than ever before to begin their careers, and those who do land jobs may switch paths several times before they find their groove. Experts say there are steps parents can take early on to help reverse the trend and raise career-ready kids.
Sixteen-year-old Sierra Lesney's childhood past-time is still her passion. She plans to take her love for horses and turn it into a full-time career as an international horse seller.
"I started when I was two," Lesney said. "My grandmother is a trainer, so I just started riding with her."
The straight-A honors student will pursue a college major that will help her turn dreams into reality.
"Economics, because I think that will help me know the different, like, currencies and different exchange rates and stuff like that for different countries," Lesney said.
Rhonda Hess is a certified career coach, helping adult clients identify their strengths. Hess said kids often show their natural abilities early.
"A real cue is what do children do in their free time or down time?" Hess said.
A parent's first step: watch your child play. Expose them to a variety of new people and activities. Introduce the idea of work and career.
For pre-teens and teens, experts tell parents to look for clues in their child's choice of clubs and after-school activities. Make the connection between those interests and possible careers. Talk about job "clusters" -- families of jobs that require similar skills.
Experts say parents should be careful not to pigeon-hole kids no matter what their age.
"I think encourage and allow are distinctions that are wise to keep in mind," Hess said.
For Lesney, forging a career in horses isn't a big leap. It's already an important part of her everyday life.
"I couldn't imagine not doing it," Lesney said.
Experts say some schools conduct student aptitude testing and begin career counseling in middle school or high school, but the programs vary widely by state. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics offers good career planning resources for parents and kids.