How Can a Parent Help Their Student Make Good Career Decisions


It is important to recognize that career decision-making is a process, not an event. A sound decision is an informed decision based on information about oneself (interests, skills and values) and the world of work. The individual should own the decision as his/her own choice.

Parents want the best for their children.  You can be most helpful if you see your role as supporting your student as they navigate the decision-making process so that they can make choices that are right for them.  If they are struggling with their decision making, encourage them to visit the Fleishman Career Center where they can work with a counselor and utilize the many resources available. 

Four Important Ways to Help:

1. Help Them Understand Their Interests, Skills, Values and Passions

  • Listen for interests, look for skills, and acknowledge values and personality.
    Some students have an easier time than others in articulating what they like, what is important to them, and what they excel in.  If your student seems unsure, talk about personal qualities you see as talents and strengths.  You can also recommend that they meet with a counselor in the Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development to discuss a “self-assessment inventory,” such as the Strong Interest Inventory or Discover.
  • Review past accomplishments.
    Initiate a discussion about what your student has accomplished, learned, explored and even abandoned. Ask: what did you learn about yourself from that experience?
  • Encourage participation.
    Part of college life is to be involved and active outside the classroom.  Interpersonal and leadership skills – qualities valued by future employers - are often developed through extracurricular activities. 
  • Find their passion.
    Are there things that they have a passion for?   Talk to them about how this can translate into majors and/or careers.

2. Promote Learning About Majors and Careers

  • Encourage your student to explore different classes, majors, internships, and career fields to help them determine the best fit for their skills, values, and personality.

  • Talk to your student about their thoughts and ideas regarding majors or careers based on their interests, skills and values. What do they know about these fields (based on information not hearsay or assumption)? Offer ideas as to how they might gain experience or find out more information.

  • Don't judge, but listen carefully to what they are saying. Before offering your opinion or coming to your own conclusions, get your own information on the majors and careers your student is considering. Use the links on Fleishman Career Center's website to help. Many careers and majors have stereotypes attached to them and it can be difficult to discuss these options in an unbiased manner with limited information on your part.

  • Keep in mind that "major" does not equate to "career", and it is not unusual for a student to change majors. Many students change majors after gaining more information about different disciplines and/or career fields of interest. Many students end up doing something very different than they originally planned, so don't overreact when they come up with what seems to be an outrageous or impractical career idea. Chances are plans will develop and change. it's okay to change majors – and careers. (Source: National Association of Colleges and Employers).

  • Promote career curiosity. When you watch a movie, television or observe someone in a certain career, ask: "What do you think it's like to be in that field?"

3. Help Them Understand the Value of Networking and Professionalism

  • Networking is a proactive strategy for career success. Students who take advantage of opportunities will have a competitive edge in the job market.

  • Encourage your student to actively seek opportunities to talk with professionals in their field of interest. Teach them the value of networking.

  • Introduce them to other professionals including co-workers, friends, and others in your network. People you know through professional, community, and social experiences may themselves know a whole different set of people to whom they would be happy to connect your son or daughter.

  • Encourage meaningful use of social media. LinkedIn is rapidly becoming a critical part of professional networking and students can use this tool to connect with not just friends and family members, but also to Binghamton alumni and other professionals. Sites like Twitter and Facebook can be extremely useful as well. Talk with your student about paying close attention to his/her online persona and how that image affects personal brand. It might affect internship or job opportunities later on.

  • Encourage your student to "shadow" someone in the workplace to increase awareness of interesting careers. Harpur College students should consider the Liberal Arts to Careers Externship (LACE) program which provides the opportunity to build career relationships by shadowing alumni in their workplace. Students can explore how their major relates to career options, observe workplace etiquette firsthand, and begin to develop valuable career networks.

  • Reinforce and model the importance of using good manners in person, on the phone, at work, and at meals.

4. Affirm the Value of Gaining Experience and Building a Resume

Colleges grant degrees, but not job guarantees, so having relevant experience in this competitive job market is critical. Your student can sample career options through internships, summer employment opportunities, extracurricular activities or volunteer work.

Employers value internships because they provide students with important training and experience. Approximately 60 percent of 2012 college graduates who took part in paid internships received at least one job offer, according to the results of a survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

  • Employers are interested in communication, problem-solving, and administrative skills, which can be developed through internships.

  • Employers look for experience on a student's resume which tells that they've tested their interests and learned some of the basics of the workplace.

  • Employers often hire from within their own internship programs.

  • Having a high GPA is not enough.

  • A strong letter of recommendation from an internship supervisor can be invaluable in getting interviews and jobs.

Last Updated: 8/11/16