The big questions - what subjects should I study, should I leave school or stay, is industry training better than a course, and what about university - can have a huge impact on teens.
Leave it too long to get involved or try to tell the kids what they should do and you've found the recipe for disaster.
Teens may think mum and dad know nothing. The reality is that what parents do for a living; where they live; their education, knowledge and skills; what they earn; and how they spend their time and money have a huge influence on their child's career decisions, says Ailsa Tini, career consultant at Careers New Zealand.
Sometimes the pressure comes from mum or dad. Auckland career consultant Jennie Miller had a "6ft 6" school sports star in tears in her office.
Mum, a high-flying strategist, wanted son to go into leadership. He desperately wanted to be a teacher, but she wouldn't listen.
One of the big risks for teenagers' career paths is taking wrong turns in their school subject, course, and/or university choices, which can be costly.
"It's never too early to start looking at the next step," says Miller.
She finds many teens are swayed by peer or parental pressure, or something as simple as a university's marketing spiel, into taking subjects or courses that aren't right for them.
Sometimes the teens look only as far as the first-year paper descriptions and get a shock at the requirements in year two or three.
She works with many university students who have come to the realisation that they're studying the wrong qualification.
For some, the mistakes were made when they chose subjects as early as years 10, 11 and 12.
"A hundred years ago you could see what everybody did, your career was a straight road and you could see the destination.
"Now there's no road and you need an all-terrain vehicle," she says.
"Teens and their parents need to think about where particular subjects will lead," says Tini.
But it is also good to keep the options open.
What parents do for a living; where they live; their education, knowledge and skills; what they earn; and how they spend their time and money have a huge influence on their child's career decisions" Ailsa Tini, Careers NZ
"In particular have a look at the CareerQuest and Skills Matcher tools on careers.govt.nz Parents can sit alongside their teens as they use these skills," she adds.
Miller arranges for teens to complete an online assessment tool before she meets them.
She then looks at their values systems, their interests, their career motivators and personality.
Parents are involved at the end of the discussion.
Tips for teens
•Take the subjects you love, not just the ones you're good at and look. If you love what you do someone is more likely to want to pay you to do it.
•Take time to consider your options. Acting in haste can result in repenting at leisure.
•Don't make subject decisions based on easy credits or good/bad teachers.
•Don't just choose a university on its location. You may want to get out of home, but that doesn't mean you have to leave Auckland if the best courses are here.
•Talk to graduates and others in the profession that interests you. They can be found through family contacts, or tracked down via LinkedIn. People love to talk about what they do, says Miller.
•Be prepared to break away from your friends.
•Do some volunteer, holiday or part time work in the field you're interested in. It will both look good on your CV and give you an insight into what your working life might look like.
Tips for parents
•Be your child's advocate. "Help provide them contacts and don't let them go it alone."
•Never ask teens what they are going to do for a job. Ask them what they enjoy at school and talk to their strengths and interests.
•Schools don't prepare teens for making decision about study and transition from school.
•Listen to your teens and try to put yourself in their shoes.
•Get involved in their career choices, understand what is happening in the classroom and how the qualifications system works.
•Encourage your children's interests even though they may not be your interests and try to see your teens for who they are.
•Understand that the world is changing. It's expected that in 20 years' time 80 per cent of current jobs will no longer exist in the form we know now.
•Great marks aren't enough. Employers want to employ a whole person.
•Join your teens on tours of tertiary institutions.
•If you're concerned about your teen's career choices or think they need to think more broadly see advice from experts such as a Career Development Association of New Zealand (CDANZ) practitioner.
Source Jennie Miller