A Parent's Guide to Career Development
1. Encourage your child to visit Career Services.
When your son or daughter expresses feeling anxious about his/her future, remind him/her about the services offered in the career center on campus. Ask your student periodically (in an off-handed way), "Have you visited the career center?" If you hear, "You only go there when you are a senior," then it's time to reassure them that Career Services is not just for seniors, and meeting with a career specialist can take place at any point (and should take place frequently) in their college career. The sooner a student becomes familiar with the staff, resources, and programs, the better prepared s/he will be to make wise career decisions.
2. Challenge your student to become "occupationally literate and aware".
Ask: "Do you have any ideas about what you might want to do when you graduate?" If your student seems unsure, you can talk about personal qualities you see as talents and strengths. You can also recommend:
- Taking a "self-assessment inventory" in the career center
- Talking to favorite faculty members
- Researching a variety of interesting career fields and employers
A career decision should be a process and not a one-time, last minute event. Discourage putting this decision off until the senior year. Also, encourage your student to learn about a variety of careers. Many students do not realize the wide range of choices they have.
3. Allow your student to make the decision.
It's okay to make suggestions about majors and career fields, but let your student be the ultimate judge of what's best. Even though it is helpful to ask occasionally about career paths, too much prodding can backfire.
Myth: A student must major in something "practical" or marketable.
Truth: Students should follow their own interests and passions.
Myth: Picking your major means picking the career you will have forever.
Truth: That's not true anymore. "Major" does not necessarily mean "career", and it is not unusual for a student to change majors. Many students change majors after gaining more information about specific fields of study and career fields of interest. Many students end up doing something very different than originally planned, so don't freak out when they come up with an outrageous or impractical career idea. Chances are plans will develop and change. It's okay to change majors and careers.
Career development can be stressful. Maybe this is the first really big decision that your son or daughter has had to make. Be patient, sympathetic, and understanding, even if you don't agree with your child's decisions.
4. Encourage extracurricular involvement.
Part of experiencing college life is to be involved and active outside the classroom. Interpersonal and leadership skills (qualities valued by future employers) are often developed in extracurricular activities.