Top Ten Tips for Parents
One of the most valuable things parents can do to help a student with
career planning is listen: be open to ideas, try to help your student
find information, and be nonjudgmental.
Here are 10 ways you can help:
1. Encourage your child to visit the career
(and you go too!)
Next time you visit campus, drop into the career services office and
pick up a business card from one of the career counselors. When your son
or daughter is feeling anxious about his/her future, offer the card and
say, "Please call this person. He (or she) can help you."
Many students use their first semester to "settle into" college life,
and so perhaps the spring semester of the freshman year is the optimal
time to start using career center services. And, it's a good time for
you to prompt that first visit.
Ask your student (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 counselor 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 he or she will be to make wise career decisions.
Many centers offer a full range of career development and job-search
- mock interviews
- a network of alumni willing to talk about their jobs and careers
- a library of books on a wide range of careers
- workshops on writing resumes and cover letters
- a recruiting program
- individual advising
2. Advise your student to write a
Writing a resume can be a "reality test" and can help a student identify
weak areas that require improvement. Suggest that your student get
sample resumes from the career center, from books at the public library,
or online [put link here to our resume information].
You can review resume drafts for grammar, spelling, and content, but
recommend that the final product be critiqued by a career center
3. Challenge your student to become
Ask: "Do you have any ideas about what you might want to do when you
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," such as the Myers-Briggs Type
Indicator or the Campbell Interest and Skill Survey at the career
Talking to favorite faculty members, and
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.
4. Allow your student to make the decision
Even though it is helpful to ask occasionally about career plans, 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.
It's okay to make suggestions about majors and career fields, but let
your student be the ultimate judge of what's best.
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
5. Emphasize the importance of
The career center will not "place" your child in a job at graduation.
Colleges grant degrees, but not job guarantees, so having relevant
experience in this competitive job market is critical.
Your son or daughter can sample career options by completing internships
and experimenting with summer employment opportunities or volunteer
Why an internship?
Employers are interested in communication, problem-solving, and
administrative skills, which can be developed through internships.
Employers look for experience on a student's resume and often hire from
within their own internship programs.
Having a high GPA is not enough.
A strong letter of recommendation from an internship supervisor can
often tip the scale of an important interview in their favor.
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.
7. Persuade your student to stay up-to-date
with current events
Employers will expect students to know what is happening around them.
Buy your student a subscription to the New York Times or the Wall Street
Journal. When he or she is home on break, discuss major world and
8. Expose your student to the world of work
Most students have a stereotypical view of the workplace. Take your
child to your workplace. Explain to your son or daughter what you do for
a living. Show him or her how to network by interacting with your own
colleagues. Help your student identify potential employers.
9. Teach the value of networking
Introduce your student to people who have the careers/jobs that are of
interest. Suggest your son or daughter contact people in your personal
and professional networks for information on summer jobs. Encourage your
child to "shadow" someone in the workplace to increase awareness of
interesting career fields.
Help the career center
Call your campus career center when you have a summer, part-time or
full-time job opening. The staff will help you find a hard-working
student. If your company hires interns, have the internships listed in
the career center. Join the campus career center's career advisory
network and use your "real world" experience to advise students of their
career options, participate in a career panel or career related