Career planning and career decision-making has become an increasingly complex activity for all people and certainly for post-secondary students and the pressure young adults feel to career plan efficiently and effectively is enormous. The reasons for this are many including increased costs, societal and family expectations, and increased number of options (i.e., too many choices).
We know from professional experience and from research that parents are very influential in their son’s and daughter’s career planning and that parents are the most frequently identified people that university students’ consult when career planning. We also know that parents want to help their sons and daughters career plan but we also know that parents may be uncertain about how best to partner with their sons and daughters to help plan for career success. We have some suggestions for you!
Parents’ Hopes, Dreams and Worries
We believe that parents hope and dream for success and happiness for their sons and daughters. Ironically, this can become a source of stress as parents attempt to help with career planning. Why? Because parents may have a different definition of success than their daughters and sons. We suggest that you consider whose definition of success is most important. We also suggest that your sons and daughters are not mirror images or clones of yourselves and that they therefore will want and need different things from their careers than you need and want.
Parents express many worries about career planning and some of the most common that we hear are:
These are legitimate and serious worries and you need a way to address them. We’re going to focus primarily on the latter two worries. There are many resources available at the University of Manitoba to assist with the first two worries including the Student Counselling and Career Centre and the Academic Learning Centre.
Suggestions for Parents
Check out our information on career planning for success. Our webpage on career planning and decision-making shares information on how to approach these tasks – being knowledgeable about career planning can help parents not encourage strategies that can be risky (e.g., selecting an occupational goal based solely on salary).
Listen to ideas, plans and decisions. Be prepared to be a listening partner for your son and daughter and acknowledge his/her ideas, interests, values and identity. Provide support and encouragement but also point out consequences of plans and decisions. This is an area where you can be extremely helpful because of your life experience. You understand the implications of decisions in a way that is likely not possible for your son or daughter. For example, you will likely have a better understanding of the impact of shirt work on life and family than your son or daughter. Remember to be careful to challenge the plan, not the person.
Provide information. You can be an excellent source of career and decision-making information for your daughter or son. Consider talking about your career and how you decided and share what you would do differently. Provide books, magazines and other literature and encourage use of the internet (Tip: Don’t force your daughter or son to read these materials – leave them out and they may be used). Provide people contacts – you might know people working in occupations that they are considering. Finally, encourage use of University of Manitoba resources.
Control your ambition. This might be a tough one for all parents because this relates to views of success as well as hopes and dreams. Parents need to be careful to not impose their ambitions on their sons and daughters because this rarely works well. We encourage you to honour your son/daughter’s identities and their analytical process. You don’t need to disregard your ambitions for your son or daughter, however. Use your ambitions to suggest points of discussion.
Build self-confidence. Your daughter or son’s career decision-making self-efficacy (i.e., self-confidence for career planning) may not be particularly strong and may be easily susceptible to criticism. As such, we encourage you to criticize sparingly. We also encourage you to remember to make positive comments too. This does not mean that you cannot question your daughter or son’s career plans; rather, be aware of the process and manner you use to do this.
Teach Decision-Making Skills. Decision-making is a learned skill that people develop in unique ways. Your son or daughter will need to develop their own strategy for decision-making but you can help. Encourage your son or daughter to:
Encourage the total university experience. Employers and program administrators (e.g., Faculty of Medicine) look for more than just good academic achievements in candidates for employment or admission. Consider for example what you have looked for when hiring a new employee. We guess that you want someone who is affable (able to work well with others), available (reliable and interested in working) and skilled. Participation in student groups, volunteer experiences and attending optional academic experiences are a few ways that students can add to the skills that they will attain in from their academic program. This overall skill development will create more possibilities and leave them less vulnerable to change.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Charles Darwin
Final Messages to Consider