How can I help my student prepare for life after Christendom?
The answer is: Lots of ways!
Yes, parents, you, too, have a role in your student’s career planning. Let’s face it, you see a lot more of them than we do in the Career Development Office (CDO). While they may come by the CDO a couple times per school year, you see them on break, over the summer, etc. You can use those dinner time discussions, those trips in the car on vacation, and many other opportunities to help them form their career thoughts. So here are some thoughts for your consideration as your student goes through her/his college career.
Tips For Parents
Parents and Career Development staff share a common goal – to help your student prepare for and to make sound, faith-based career decisions. Various studies indicate that parents are ranked as the number one influence over their child’s job choices. Students today are offered so many choices and opportunities that it is often difficult for them to decide on “the best” career path to follow.
Choosing a Career
- Security vs. adventure.
- Accountant, lay missionary, consecrated religious, journalist, college professor.
- Ultimately, your child should make the choice. Of course, you may want to mention factors to consider, such as job market demand, salary ranges, long-range opportunities, skills required, etc.
- Just because an occupation is “hot” now does not mean it will be equally in demand in 10 years or that your child has the aptitude or motivation for it.
- Ability of a liberal arts education to groom the student for a variety of careers, whether in their major field or outside it
The following links will take you to information from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) to help you, and your student, begin the process of choosing a major and/or career.
Grade Point Average (GPA)
Some students who get off to a rocky start eventually pull up their grades; however, this can be very difficult to do. Parents should encourage your child to make academics a high priority beginning with their freshman year. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that it may take them a while to adjust to the rigorous academic demands of college. Some employers use GPA cutoffs in considering applicants. Other employers stress the student’s overall background: experience, number of hours worked during the school year to finance college, leadership activities, etc.
Obtaining Marketable Skills
Most employers today put as much or more emphasis on graduates’ skills than on their academic majors. Encourage your child to develop strengths in at least two or three of the following areas:
- Computer skills (e.g., programming, word processing, spreadsheets, data base management, e-mail, Internet);
- Problem-solving skills (e.g., application of logic techniques to finding the root cause of a problem)
- Quantitative skills (e.g., accounting, statistics, economics);
- Communication skills (e.g., written and oral);
- Marketing/selling skills (e.g., sales, publicity, fundraising);
- Leadership skills (e.g., supervisory, extracurricular leadership roles, teamwork/team leader).
Many employers rate leadership activities even more than GPA. Some students who were very active in high school activities may be less involved in college extracurricular activities. However, employers regard high school as “ancient history” for a college senior. It is more valuable for a student to be involved in a few meaningful leadership roles on campus than to be in a “laundry list” of many campus clubs.
You may want your child to work in their hometown every summer. However, the experience gained as a lifeguard or ice cream shop counter clerk does not compare to that which comes from an internship (paid or unpaid) in the career field that they aspire to enter. Future employers will seek graduates with relevant, real world work experience. Some students have little to write about on a resume if their summers were spent in school, traveling, or working at low-level jobs. We strongly suggest that students seek career-related experience for their sophomore and junior summers even if they must live away from home or accept an unpaid internship. Students needing financial support can combine an unpaid internship with a job such as a waiter/waitress, etc.
Planning for Graduate/Professional School
About 88 percent of the nation’s college freshmen indicated in a recent survey that they plan to go to graduate or professional school, yet only about 24 percent do so within a year of completing their bachelor’s degree. Students aspiring to graduate or professional school should:
- Be clear about the reasons they want to go on for further education;
- Research the qualifications required for admission and be realistic about their chances of acceptance;
- Always have a “Plan B” or back-up plan in case they are not accepted.
Students should discuss their interest in graduate or professional school well before their senior year with their academic advisor, the college’s graduate or professional school advisor (e.g., the pre-law or pre-med advisor); and a career counselor to obtain advice and guidance from three different perspectives.
Taking Time Off
Many students want to take time off after graduation from college before attending graduate school or taking a career-related job. Future employers will want to know how the student has spent the intervening time participating in activities during this time period demonstrate relevance to future career goals and/or a good work ethic. Short-term travel or a year-long mission trip may be both intellectually and spiritually broadening, and can be viewed as a positive by a potential employer if the student can connect things they learned or experienced during the period to the required qualifications for the job, but there is no guarantee of this happening. Therefore, the time off may result in a longer job search. For example, management trainee programs, which often begin shortly after graduation and hire large numbers of new graduates, may be filled by the time your child is ready to begin a job search.
Using the Career Services Office
Students should begin exploring the services provided by the Career Development Office no later than their sophomore year. Virtually all career offices provide individual career counseling/ advising, career planning workshops, internship assistance, and career fairs and programs; these services are specifically for underclassmen. Your child should seek help early with choosing a career and preparing for it. Competition for good jobs, particularly in certain fields, is stiff. The Christendom Career Development Office can advise students about how to become a strong candidate for their field of interest.
The following link will take you to information from NACE about the services provided by the typical career center.
Parent Career Checklist
Parents and family members are an important part of a student’s career exploration process. Below are helpful questions to consider as you assist your student with his/her career choices.
- Am I encouraging my student to acquire new experiences?
- Do I encourage the exploration of new ideas, experiences, and occupations without being pushy?
- Am I willing to discuss my own career development history?
- Am I positive and supportive when my student makes poor decisions or fails?
- Do I encourage my student to explore occupations of interest and refer him/her to appropriate resources?
- Do I help my student objectively look at his/her strengths and weaknesses and suggest how they might relate to various careers?
- Am I willing to refer my student to friends/ acquaintances who might discuss their occupations with him/her?
- Do I ask questions that will encourage my student to further his/her career information gathering process?
- Do I compliment my student on his/her positive strengths and accomplishments?
The following link will provide you with more information from NACE as to how you can play a vitally productive role in your child’s career planning and preparation.
NOTE: The preceding information has been adapted with only minor editing from the Morgan State University Center for Career Development website.
Contact Kristin Stephens with questions: firstname.lastname@example.org