Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers
Your son or daughter just left for (or returned to) college but doesn't seem to have a clue as to what he or she wants to major in, let alone choose as a career. Don't worry, this is not unusual, although you might wish your child had a little more sense of direction.
Choosing a career is a process students need to go through—and they go through the stages of this process at different rates of speed. The steps include:
You can assist and support your child in each of these stages. But what can—or should—you do?
Here's your own career planning timetable.
Careers 101—for 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
Careers 201—For parents of second-year students
Generally, during the second year of college, a student begins to explore majors and career options more seriously. Many colleges and universities require that new students take a broad range of subjects to promote this exploration.
What you can do to help
Careers 301—For parents of "mid-career" students
During the sophomore year and throughout the junior year, it is important for students to experiment with possible career options. They can do this in a variety of ways: internships, cooperative education programs, summer jobs, campus jobs, and responsible volunteer experiences both on campus and in the local community. This is a critical time for your support and understanding.
What you can do to help
Careers 401—For parents of graduating seniors
The senior year is when organizing and conducting a job search or graduate 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
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:
Best of luck to you in navigating the challenging waters of parenting a college or university student.
By Sally Kearsley. Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, copyright holder. www.naceweb.org.
The most valuable things parents can do to help a student with career planning are:
Here are eight more things you can do to help:
1. Encourage your child to visit the career center (and you go too!)
Many students use their first semester to "settle into" college life, and so the spring semester of the freshman year is the optimal time to start using career center services. 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 him/her that meeting with a career counselor can take place at any point—and should take place frequently—through out a college career.
Many centers offer a full range of career development and job-search help, including:
2. Advise your student to write a resume
You can review resume drafts for grammar, spelling, and content, but recommend that the final product be critiqued by a career center professional.
3. Challenge your student to become "occupationally Iiterate."
If your student seems unsure, you can talk about personal qualities you see as talents and strengths. You can also recommend:
A career decision should be a process and not a one-time, last-minute event.
4. Emphasize the importance of internships
Your son or daughter can sample career options by completing internships and experimenting with summer employment opportunities or volunteer work.
Why an internship?
5. Encourage extracurricular involvement
6. Help your student to stay up-to-date with current events
7. Teach the value of networking
8. Help the career center
By Thomas J. Denham. Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, copyright holder.
As parents of graduates facing a tough job market, what can you do to assist your son or daughter in transitioning from the secure world of classes and residence halls to the unknown reality of what lies ahead? Here are some suggestions:
Ask how you can help.
But don’t be pushy: Let your new grad take the lead.
Suggest a visit to the campus career center.
Offer networking contacts.
Be ready to hear new ideas.
Provide a sounding board when frustrations overflow.
Give an early graduation present with the job search in mind.
Reassure your new grad that a tough job market is temporary.
Look and listen for signs of depression.
Remind your new grad that you are proud of his or her accomplishments.
by Kelli Robinson. Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, copyright holder.
Get insight into 10 career-related items so you can help your son or daughter plan for a career.
1. Choosing a career/choosing a major
Security vs. adventure. Accountant, Peace Corps volunteer, journalist, college professor.
Ultimately, your son or daughter should make the choice. Of course, you may want to mention factors to consider, such as job-market demand, salary ranges, long-range opportunities, skills required, and so forth. Just because an occupation is "hot" now does not mean it will be equally in demand in 10 years, or that your child has the aptitude or motivation for it.
2. Choosing to double major/choosing a major and minor
Most employers do not place a premium on a double major. It usually requires an extra one or two semesters to obtain a second major and does not particularly enhance a student's marketability. Exceptions would be a second major or a major and minor chosen for a specific career, such as English and chemistry for technical writing, or a health policy major and business minor for hospital administration. Of course, some students may choose to double major primarily for academic/intellectual purposes.
3. Grade point average (GPA)
Some students who get off to a rocky start eventually pull up their grades; however, this can be difficult to do. Advanced placement credits and study-abroad courses generally do not count in the computation of a student's GPA.
Some employers use GPA cutoffs in considering applicants for job openings. Others stress the student's overall background: experience, number of hours worked during the school year to finance college, leadership activities, and other key skills or attributes. Encourage your son or daughter to make academics a high priority beginning with the freshman year. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that it may take him or her a while to adjust to the rigorous academic demands of college.
4. Obtaining marketable skills
Most employers today put more emphasis on graduates' skills than on their academic majors. Encourage your son or daughter to develop strengths in at least two or three of the following areas:
5. Leadership activities
Many employers rate leadership activities even more highly than GPA. Students who were very active in high school activities may be less involved in college extracurricular activities. However, employers regard high school as "ancient history" for a college senior. It is more valuable for a student to be involved in a few meaningful leadership roles on campus than to be in a "laundry list" of many campus clubs.
You may want your son or daughter to work in his or her hometown every summer. However, the experience gained as a lifeguard or ice cream shop counter clerk does not compare to that which comes from an internship in the career field that he or she aspires to enter. Future employers will seek graduates with relevant, real-world work experience. Some students have little to write about on a resume if their summers were spent in school, traveling, or working at low-level jobs. We strongly suggest that students seek career-related experience for their sophomore and junior summers.
7. Graduating early, graduating late
Some students graduate early through advanced placement credits, heavy course loads, and summer school courses. The advantages are lower educational expenses, and the ability to start employment or graduate school earlier. The disadvantages may include the sacrifice of academic honors, work experience, and extracurricular and volunteer activities that may contribute to a student's maturity level and qualifications.
Other students graduate late due to light course loads, academic difficulties, changing majors, poor academic advising, lack of direction, or reluctance to leave the cocoon of the college environment. Advantages to late graduation include the ability to improve grades with light class loads, extra time to change majors, the ability to take additional electives to improve marketability, and extra time to gain more career-related or leadership experience. Disadvantages to late graduation are increased college costs, and possible disapproval of employers and graduate schools.
8. Planning for graduate/professional school
Students aspiring to graduate or professional school should:
Students should discuss their interest in graduate or professional school well before their senior year with their academic adviser; the college's graduate or professional school adviser (e.g., the pre-law or pre-med adviser); and a college career adviser to obtain advice and guidance from three different perspectives.
9. Taking time off
Many students want to take time off after college graduation and before attending graduate school or taking a career-related job. Future employers will want to know how the student has spent the intervening time. Do activities during this period demonstrate relevance to future career goals and/or a good work ethic?
While short-term travel may be personally broadening, it does not increase a student's marketability to employers unless it is seen as career related. Therefore, the time off may result in a longer job search. For example, management trainee programs, which often begin shortly after graduation and hire large numbers of new graduates, may be filled by the time your child is ready to begin a job search.
10. Using the college career center
Students should visit the career center no later than their sophomore year. Most career centers provide individual career counseling/advising, workshops, internship assistance, and career fairs and programs—services designed specifically for underclassmen.
Your son or daughter should seek help early with choosing a career and preparing for it. Competition for good jobs, particularly in certain fields, is stiff. The career center can advise students about how to become strong candidates for their fields of interest.
By Marcia B. Harris and Sharon L. Jones. Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, copyright holder. www.naceweb.org.