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Heart of the Matter

Andy Chan's Blog for Parents, Mentors and Teachers

Parent-to-Student Career Conversations (Part II)

As parents of college students, we often think that we have a diminished influence on our child.  In my experience, I have seen many students who care so deeply about the opinions of their parents that they are unable to make a decision or think clearly on their own. Complicating it even further, many students are unable to talk to their parents about these issues. So the student often makes decisions based on what their parents “think” – but was never confirmed.

Here’s another way for parents be a positive influence in the career conversations with their students.

The right questions lead to the right answers

The first, foundational step in the career development process is for an individual to understand themselves – their unique interests, values, strengths, personality and talents. Many students – and people for that matter – are unable to answer the question “Tell me about yourself?” in a manner that demonstrates clarity of career direction. Most often, it’s because few students have been given the opportunity to think about and reflect on it. Parents can assist in this process.

We parents often make the mistake of thinking our children need reminders and to do lists to activate their career and job search process. We focus on “what’ they need to do. Instead, we need to help students develop their own answers for “why”. “Why is thinking about my job and career search important to me?”

We must be thoughtful in how to guide students develop their own positive motivations working on their job and career search.  Parental approval or fear of parent reprisal is not a healthy approach – for the student or for the parent-student relationship. If we truly want to foster mature, independent adults, we must appeal to deeper, stronger and more intrinsic motivations for career exploration and development so that it’s something they want to do. You may have experienced that the more you push your child to do something, the more they resist it.

When your student asks for your opinion or answer to their career question, resist the temptation to answer immediately. Instead, answer with a question like, “What are your thoughts on this?” or “Tell me a little more about the situation.” With more dialogue, you may find that your student has already discovered a reasonable solution. At a minimum, you will have more information from which you can provide an answer – one that is built on their perceptions and reality, not yours.

Be curious and listen carefully. Ask neutral questions that help you understand how they think and what motivates them. Re-state and re-phrase to confirm their thoughts to validate their thinking. Students yearn to be truly heard and understood – and this approach will help them go beyond the job search checklist to creating the motivation to thoughtfully and productively engage in the career process while on campus and throughout life.

There are two types of love, conditional and unconditional. We all know what type we prefer. Before having career conversations, remember which type of love you have for your child – and then demonstrate this spirit in your questions, your tone, your body language, and your intentions. During this key time of your student’s life, every communication you have with him/her can have significant impact.

Category: Tips for Parents