Parent's Guide To Career Development
Career planning is typically not a one person, isolated adventure. Connecting with others about the whole process can enhance the experience and success for most students.
Parents especially can be valuable in helping students succeed in career development and planning if they are able to listen, be open to ideas, help students find information, and be nonjudgmental.
Here are ways you can help:
1. Encourage your child to visit the UAB Career & Professional Development Services' (CPDS)office (and you go too!)
Visit with staff from UAB CPDS and understand the services available to your students. While there, take a business card.
When your student is ready to start thinking about, or is expressing anxiety about his or her future, you can let them know who is available on campus to help. Pay attention to your student’s timing and act accordingly.
At the beginning of spring term, ask your student: “Have you had a chance to check out the CPDS office?” By spring term students have settled into college life and are ready to start utilizing the resources available to them.
Point out that CPDS works with students at any point in their education but the sooner a student becomes familiar with our staff, resources, and programs, the better prepared he or she will be to make wise career decisions.
CPDS offers a wide-range of career development and job-search help including:
- individual career consulting,
- online resources and a library of books on a wide range of careers,
- workshops on writing resumes and cover letters,
- career fairs and events,
- on-campus interviews, and
- virtual and live mock interviews.
2. Advise your student to write a resume
Writing a resume can be a "reality test" and can help a student identify weak areas that require improvement. Suggest that your student get a resume packet containing tips on writing resumes.
You can review resume drafts for grammar, spelling, and content, but recommend that the final product be critiqued by UAB CPDS staff. Resume critiques are available through the DragonTrail career management site.
3. Challenge your student to become "occupationally literate"
Ask: "Do you have any ideas about what you might want to do when you graduate?" If your student seems unsure, you can talk about personal qualities you see as talents and strengths. You can also recommend:
- Taking the Discover assessment,
- talking to favorite faculty members, and
- researching a variety of interesting career fields and employers.
A career decision should be a process and not a one-time, last-minute event: Discourage putting this decision off until the senior year.
4. Allow your student to make the decision
Even though it is helpful to ask occasionally about career plans, too much prodding can backfire.
Myth: A student must major in something "practical" or marketable.
Truth: Students should follow their own interests and passions.
Myth: Picking your major means picking the career you will have forever.
Truth: That's not true anymore. "Major" does not necessarily mean "career", and it is not unusual for a student to change majors. Many students change majors after gaining more information about specific fields of study and career fields of interest. Many students end up doing something very different than originally planned, so don't panic when they come up with an outrageous or impractical career idea. Chances are plans will develop and change. It's okay to change majors—and careers.
It's okay to make suggestions about majors and career fields, but let your student be the ultimate judge of what's best. Career development can be stressful. Maybe this is the first really big decision that your son or daughter has had to make. Be patient, sympathetic and understanding, even if you don't agree with your child's decisions.
5. Emphasize the importance of internships
UAB CPDS will not "place" your child in a job at graduation. Colleges grant degrees, but not job guarantees, so having relevant experience in this competitive job market is critical. Your son or daughter can sample career options by completing internships and experimenting with summer employment opportunities or volunteer work.
Why an internship?
Employers are interested in communication, problem-solving, and administrative skills, which can be developed through internships. They look for experience on a student's resume and 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 often tip the scale of an important interview in their favor.
6. Encourage extracurricular involvement
Part of experiencing college life is to be involved and active outside the classroom. Interpersonal and leadership skills—qualities valued by future employers—are often developed in extracurricular activities.
7. Persuade your student to stay up-to-date with current events
Employers will expect students to know what is happening around them. Encourage your student to read the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, or The Birmingham News. When he or she is home on break, discuss major world and business issues.
8. Expose your student to the world of work
Most students have a stereotypical view of the workplace. Take your child to your workplace. Explain to your son or daughter what you do for a living. Show him or her how to network by interacting with your own colleagues. Help your student identify potential employers.
9. Teach the value of networking
Introduce your student to people who have the careers/jobs that are of interest. Suggest your son or daughter contact people in your personal and professional networks for information on summer jobs. Encourage your child to "shadow" someone in the workplace to increase awareness of interesting career fields.
10. Help Service Learning & Career Development
Call UAB CPDS when you have a summer, part-time or full-time job opening. The staff will help you find a hard-working student. If your company hires interns, have the internships listed on our jobs board. Join CPDS advisory network and use your "real world" experience to advise students of their career options, and/or participate in a career panel or career related workshop.
Adapted from: A Parents' Guide to Career Development by Thomas J. Denham, offered by National Association of Colleges & Employers (NACE). The University of Alabama at Birmingham Career & Professional Development Services office is a member of NACE.