Career Planning

5 Ways to Help Your Student Choose A Career

This article is brought to you by Uloop, a leading college news and college classifieds resource for off-campus student housing, study abroad opportunities, textbooks, test prep, jobs and internships, college roommates and sublets, tutors and scholarships, student travel, and local services for college students.

By Lorena Roberts, Uloop

Parenting a college student is tough; they look to you for advice, but they don’t want to feel like you’re still in control of their lives. They call you when they’re drowning in school work, unsure if they’re going to make it, but then weeks can go by without you hearing from them. It seems they only come running to you when they’re in distress. And whether this is really true or not, being a parent of a college student is challenging. Especially when you’re being asked for advice that you can’t seem to adequately fulfill.

What do you do when your student comes to you seeking advice on choosing a major/profession? Whether you realize it or not, the things you say to your student when giving advice on choosing a career field matter more than you may think. 

I had a few good friends in college, when we were in our first couple of semesters, who refused to major in what they love because they would disappoint their parents. I know, you’re thinking I don’t make my son/daughter feel like they can’t do what they love because I’m putting too much pressure on them. But it’s likely that you don’t even realize what you’re doing. Simply saying, “You won’t make much money doing that” can set off a series of events that lead your student to pursue medical school only to admit by the time they’re in their second year that they really hate blood.

Sure, every parent wants their child to become something successful. But medical school isn’t the only option. There are hundreds of directions your child can take their education. Whether it’s becoming a teacher, getting a degree in accounting, or pursuing architecture, no matter what your college student chooses to do, you should be proud of them and happy that they’re pursuing what makes them happy.

What do you do when your college student comes to you for advice about their major/career and you don’t know what to say…? You follow these five tips for helping advise your student with which direction their life should go.

1. Encourage them to visit the center for career services on their college campus.

There’s an office for career services on every college campus. Whether it’s housed in the alumni affairs department, or it’s paired with the center for student success, your college student’s university has a place where students are welcome to come for career advice. Whether your student is a freshman, struggling to choose a major, or a senior, struggling to find a job, this is the office you should send your student to if you’re unsure how to advise them on choosing a career or a college major.

2. Have your college student take an aptitude test.

Whether it’s a free one online, or its something fancy you paid for.. an aptitude test can help give your student options. It’ll show them their strengths, weaknesses, and areas where they showed interest. It’s easy to research what careers are available for students who enjoy logical conversations, creative expression, or rigid routine. There are thousands of ways to get your student to start digging into what they’re interested in as well as what kind of lifestyle they want.

3. Envision the lifestyle they want.

Some students have a hard time removing themselves from college and thinking about what they want their future to be like. Is it important for them to drive a nice, brand new car? Do they need thousands of dollars every month to blow on useless things? Or is it important to them to have a salary that can cover all the basics, but not much more?

Half of what you choose to major in college is directly tied to how much money they’ll be able to make when they get out of college. So while I’m not suggesting you tell your child not to follow their dreams, having a conversation about future finances is important. How will they support themselves? Are they relying on getting married to support the lifestyle they want?

4. Job shadow, job shadow, job shadow

Do everything you can to snag a day with a professional for your college student. There’s nothing better than having to live a day in the life of whatever professional they’re hoping to one day be. They’ll discover whether they love or hate the world of dental hygiene after eight and a half hours with someone who does it every day. Or they’ll fall in love with being an accountant after sitting next to a CPA for a day. Whatever you do, try your hardest to get your college student a position job shadowing a professional who can give them a true taste of what the world is like after college.

5. Be supportive.

Let your college student change their major five times – even if it does prolong their graduation. Answer when the phone rings and tell them everything is going to be okay. And if one day they decide they want to pursue teaching and the next they decide to pursue biology, let them have their moment. So much of being a college student is discovering who you are, what you like, and how do you want to impact the world.

Being in college is a blast. But it’s also stressful. There’s pressure on our students to become someone who can support themselves, pay back their student loan debt, and be happy all wrapped up in one. They feel like they have to make decisions on the fly that will impact their life in huge ways. So no matter what they say when they get on the phone with you, be supportive. Encourage your student to explore every area of interest that they have. They’ll never have another shot at being an eighteen year old college student. Let them live this life while they can.

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