Parents: 3 Tips To Help Your Undecided Student Choose A Career Path

Parents want their children to succeed and find fulfillment in their field of study and professional life. Parents also want to protect their children from bad experiences and poor decision-making. However, when it comes to helping your undecided student choose a college major or career path after high school, the best action parents can take is playing a supportive role. Attempting to influence your child’s long-term goals will only undermine the strength of their decisions and their confidence in making them. Therefore, it’s important for parents to learn some tips for effectively guiding and supporting their children in making decisions for life after high school.


Tip 1: Let Them Choose Their Path
Students need the freedom to choose their own path, and they need the freedom to choose without judgement from their parents. This can be difficult for parents who may want to jump in and influence the choices that their student is making. However, it’s essential that parents truly listen to their student’s interests and ideas while remaining nonjudgmental. When a student feels genuine support from their parents, they are more successful in researching and choosing a career path. Ultimately, the meaning of support in this context is giving your student clear indication that you are rooting for them in the decisions they make about what they plan to study in college and pursue as a profession. By listening to their goals, parents can support their student not just with words of encouragement but with actions as well. For example, if your student declares that they want to coach an athletic team, you can help them find a coach to reach out to for guidance and information as a means of showing your support.



Tip 2: Review Their Grades
To support a student’s college and career goals, it’s important for parents to make an honest review of their grades, and (again) to make this review without judgement. Certain college majors have grade point average (GPA) requirements, and sometimes high school grades do matter. Other majors aren’t as restrictive in terms of high school grades. Part of being a supportive parent is understanding your student’s academic potential as well as their interests. For example, if your son or daughter wishes to pursue a career in engineering or other STEM fields, they should logically have strong grades in math and science courses. However, it’s also important for parents to understand that your student’s past grades do not determine their future success in college or potential professions. High school grades are not a reflection of the student and/or professional your son or daughter may become. If your child decides on a college major or career goal that requires a higher GPA than what they have attained, they can attend community college and work towards improving their grades and then transferring to a university for further study. Overall, reviewing your student’s grades can provide a realistic picture of what they can expect to achieve in the very short term. However, choosing a college major and career path are long term goals. If students set forth clear goals for what they are actually working toward, parents can support them by providing guidance and encouragement in taking steps to achieve those goals.



Tip 3: Get Them Exposed to Work
Most students attend college and decide on a major with the goal of starting a particular career once they earn their degree. Unfortunately, this end goal can backfire if students have no realistic idea of what that career entails before they begin the path of pursuing it. This can be a difficult realization when students begin taking upper-level courses in their major and find out that their goal job may not be what they imagined or expected. 



Parents tend to understand that the perception of a career as a student is vastly different than the actual experience of the work. To limit the chances of your son or daughter being faced with changing majors or continuing an educational path that feels wrong to them, it’s important to provide opportunities for them to genuinely understand the career on which they’ve set their sights as early as possible.


Of course, parents need to be supportive in getting their son or daughter exposed to work as well. Adding pressure to a student who already feels stressed about their future and asking them to investigate several careers in order to make an effective decision may be overwhelming and counterproductive. The best course of action for parents is to listen to their student’s interests and goals, and then facilitate some level of work exposure for valid information and helpful insight.

So, how can parents help their student acquire actual work exposure before they decide on a major and/or field of study, and without creating even more stress? Here are three strategies to get your son or daughter exposed to work:

•    School resources: Parents can encourage their son or daughter to meet with a career counselor at their school or visit the school’s career center, if available, to seek out opportunities for internships, co-ops, and job shadowing. These experiences can help students narrow their focus in terms of what professions they genuinely find interesting and suited for their abilities. It’s important to keep in mind that resources for this type of work exposure vary among schools and may be limited in scope. This process can also take a great deal of time and energy for students who already have busy schedules to balance.

•    Network resources: Parents can also reach out to their personal and professional contacts or social media networks to set up opportunities for their student to interview and/or shadow people in various career fields. Even if parents aren’t directly associated with a person holding a particular job that interests their son or daughter, they may be connected to friends, family, or colleagues that have access to such resources. If a point of contact becomes available to interview, parents should encourage their student to prepare questions that will lead to meaningful and direct responses regarding what the job is actually like and its advantages as well as drawbacks. It’s important to ask specific yet open-ended questions to gain as full an understanding as possible of the work and overall professional industry.

•    Career Conversations: Some parents may not feel comfortable about setting up interviews for their son or daughter with people in different professions. That’s why Career Conversations is an excellent option. Parents can sign up for a free account with this unique program that allows students to access various job documentaries. These virtual job shadowing experiences feature practical, in-depth, and detailed portrayals of different careers and occupational fields. In these videos, professionals answer relevant questions to provide a real-world look at what their careers entail. Career Conversations makes it possible for students to get work exposure and ultimately make informed decisions about choosing a major in college and following a career path.