Heart of the Matter

Andy Chan's Blog for Parents, Mentors and Teachers

Parent-to-Student Career Conversations (Part I)

As parents of college students, it’s difficult to not be thinking about and wanting to aid in our student’s career preparation. Our first thought is “How can I help my student get a “good job” when they graduate.” It’s hard to not think about it. Before you begin talking to your student about these issues this year, I offer a few ideas for your consideration – ones you may not have thought about the past.

Clarify the goal

Many parents place an intense focus on getting a “great first job” straight out of college as the pinnacle goal. They fret and view every choice through the lens of “how will that help you to get a good job.” With projections that today’s students will have up to 29 jobs in their lifetime, the first job is just that – a first job!

When economists state that we can’t even predict what will be the most popular jobs in four years, it’s unrealistic for anyone – not just parents – to claim to know best and to place a similar burden on their student. For example, today’s law students and recent graduates are wondering what happened to the secure and promising career path promised by a law degree. With such an unpredictable and dynamic job market and many career changes ahead for all, we must go beyond solely focusing on just securing a first great job and instead, understand and master the process of personal and career development.

At Wake Forest, one of our goals is to educate and equip students with the tools to be resourceful, motivated and well-informed managers in their career decisions. By achieving this goal, students will be able to successfully navigate their career changes through their entire lives. As a result, every Wake Forest student will become “employable for life”. Then they will have the capabilities to secure a great first job and even better jobs throughout their careers.

When I think about my son in college, I realize that my perspective regarding the goal of college is different than his. It’s not crucial for him to embrace my goal as his own, but I have shared it with him so that he has the background and context for my thoughts and questions about his academic, extracurricular and career-related decisions.

I shared this goal with the Wake Forest parents at Orientation so that they might consider that there’s a much greater goal for college then to “just get a good first job.” My idealistic goal for my son is: To become a mature, independent person who is motivated to learn, grow and take care of himself. He is able to make thoughtful, sound decisions. He has a well-developed sense of self and his worldview, as well as self-confidence and optimism about his future. He has a strategic view of his life and career and is creating options that align with his needs and values.

By thinking more broadly about the goal of college, you will be able to support your student in achieving many crucial, foundational goals about life – which will lead to successfully securing a great first job as well as many more throughout your child’s career.

Category: Tips for Parents