Career Planning Timetable for Parents
Your student may be going through the career-planning process and you want to be supportive, but may not know how or what you should do.
Below is your Career Planning timetable to help you learn more about career planning so you can help your student if he or she is undecided about a major or career path.
Parents of First-Year Students
During their first year or so of college, students will be involved (formally or informally) in assessing their skills, interests, and abilities. They will do this through finding success (or failure) in courses they take, involvement in campus activities, discussions with their friends and faculty, and by being exposed to and trying out different ideas and experiences.
Most students enter college with a very limited knowledge of the vast array of courses and majors available to them. When they begin to delve into studies that are new to them, even those who entered with a plan may be drawn to different options. This is an exciting time for students.
What you can do to help:
- Support your student's exploration of new areas of study and interests. This, after all, is what education is all about. Encourage your child to use the resources available at the campus career center. Experts there can assist your child in preparing a good resume and finding opportunities to test career choices. Most career centers are in direct contact with employers.
- Affirm what you know to be areas of skill and ability he or she has consistently demonstrated. Sometimes students overlook these and need to be reminded.
- Talk with your student about the courses and activities he or she is enjoying. Students discover new things about themselves throughout the college experience. Your willingness to listen and be a sounding board will keep you in the loop.
- Do not panic if your student is excited about majoring in something like English, history, or art. These can be excellent choices, particularly if they are a good match for a student's interests and skills.
- Support your student's responsible involvement in campus activities but urge this to be balanced with maintaining achievement in the classroom.
- Urge your student to seek assistance in the campus career center. Most institutions have assessment instruments and counselors to help students to define their skills, interests, and abilities.
- Do not conduct the internship or summer job search for your child. It's a great help to provide networking contacts or names of people who may be helpful; however, making the contact and speaking for your child deprives him or her of an important learning experience—and may make a poor impression on the future employer.
- Tell your child that you understand the importance of gaining exposure to and experience in his or her field of career interest. Broadening experience through involvement outside the classroom is a valuable use of time.
Parents of Second Year/Seniors and Alumni
The senior year is when organizing and conducting a job search or undergraduate school search begins in earnest. It is also a time when students are heavily involved in more advanced courses and often have more responsible roles in campus and/or volunteer activities. Balancing these important pursuits and setting priorities is a constant challenge for seniors.
You are probably anxious for this young adult to make a decision—and yet, he or she may be moving toward closure more slowly than you would wish
What you can do to help:
- Suggest that he or she use the campus career center throughout the senior year. These offices provide assistance in preparation for the job search. Offerings may include:
- Workshops and individual help with resume and cover letter writing, interviewing, and other job-search skills
- Individual and group career advising
- Job-search resource
- On-campus interviewing opportunities
- Alumni career consultant or mentor programs.
- Do not nag your child about not having a job yet. This will often have the reverse effect. Use positive reinforcement.
- Offer to assist by sending information you may have found about your child's target career field and/or job listings that may be of interest. Listen for indications from your child that you are getting carried away—and back off.
- Do not call potential employers to intervene for your child. Contact with potential employers is the candidate's responsibility.
- Be prepared to support your student through the ups and downs of the job andor undergraduate school search. It can be a bumpy road—not every desired job or graduate school acceptance will come through. Your student will need reassurance that for every door that closes, another opens.
The college years are a time of exploration, experimentation, and learning on many levels for students and their parents! Some student challenges may seem more positive than others, but all contribute to the educational outcomes of the college or university experience.
Throughout these years, students are developing a "record of achievement" that will be evaluated by employers and graduate schools as they move beyond college. There are several pieces of this record:
- Academic achievement. The grade point average (GPA) is one factor considered by competitive employers and undergraduate schools. It is one of the few tangible indications of a student's ability to learn and perform effectively, at least in the academic environment. Therefore, students need to do as well as possible in the classroom, especially in courses in their majors.
- Responsible work experience. In today's competitive employment market, many employers seek students who have related internship, summer, cooperative education, or part-time job or volunteer experiences. In fact, employers often look to their own such programs as primary sources for their new hires. These experiences are particularly critical for liberal arts students whose majors may not appear to be directly related to their areas of career interest.
- Responsible involvement outside the classroom. Extracurricular activities provide the opportunity for students to gain many valuable and career-related skills, such as the ability to work effectively with others in a team environment; leadership; planning and organizational skills; and priority-setting and time management. These are part of the package of skills employers seek in their new hires.
By Sally Kearsley courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers. A Career Planning Course for Parents. www.naceweb.org