Five simple rules for talking career this Winter Break with your college student

Julia Zielke For Parents Leave a Comment

I don’t care about the presents underneath the Christmas tree… lalala…make my wish come true. All I want for Christmas is a career.


Does this sound like something you could hear your college kid sing? While a career is certainly nothing that fits in a gift box, bringing up the big “what’s next?” over a hot chocolate with marshmallows is a must this season. Our research with 150 college seniors has shown that parents are one of the three most valuable sources for students seeking career advise!


But let’s face it: discussing life after graduation is scary! If you are too pushy, then your student will become uncomfortable or even annoyed. Are you too lax then your young adult might run the risk of missing out on crucial career opportunities. What to do?


It’s time!

Your student’s college sophomore year (latest junior year!) is a great time to start a career conversation with your child. This is because your young adult has had some time to discover what they really like doing but still have the chance to change majors or do that summer internship.


“I don’t wanna talk about it!”

It is only natural for your college student to avoid the topic. You might have encountered several dead ends in the past when bringing up your young adult’s future plans.  We only know too well that the majority of college kids feel uncertain about that big, scary question mark after graduation. Where are their true talents? What are their ambitions? Where will they be in five years from now?


In fact, our research has shown that eighty percent of college seniors are still unsure of a career path by the first term of their senior year (leaving them only months before they enter the job market). On the other hand, students that have asked themselves these sometimes uncomfortable questions and have had the chance to talk to parents, peers and professionals about their career options are significantly more likely to launch their successful careers right after graduation!


To put it in a nutshell: the more questions college students ask themselves, the more successful they will become!


The perfect occasion

The Winter Break is the perfect occasion to bring up your concerns and ideas. It is a time of reflection and- most importantly- a time with no stressful essay deadlines for your student!


Now is the time to talk and understand where your emerging adult’s career path might lead them. We know it’s not easy to bring up that topic, so here are five simple tips for a career push.


  1. Give them time to unwind

The Winter Solstice and other holiday celebrations will probably find your young adult at home needing to recover from the exhaustion of the stressful first few months of the college year.  Give your kid some time to shake off all that stress. Seeing old friends, watching TV and enjoying your home cooking will be the best way for them to unwind. So make sure to give them at least a week or so before bringing up their career plans. You will find your student to be much more relaxed, responsive and ready to reflect.


  1. Make it casual

So yes- timing is important. But choosing the right place for the talk is equally as important. Create a hassle-free atmosphere, for example when cooking together or on a shopping trip. Make sure to be alone with your young adult; it can be really distracting if other relatives are around to offer their not always so valuable insights.


  1. Communicate effectively

The key here is for you to understand that the child you raised is now an adult. We know it is only natural to feel that you need to protect your baby. But that can come across as overbearing and patronizing- your student won’t take you seriously. Imagine that you are talking to an adult friend instead. Use open-ended phrases to get your student to start thinking about their career perspectives. For example: rather than saying “I think you would make a great lawyer!” say “how do you feel about becoming a lawyer?”

Same difference? – No! You will soon find that the way you phrase things really changes the answers you get!  


  1. Listen

When you do have the conversation listen, listen, listen. In other words: even if you completely disagree with what your college kid is saying, bite your tongue! It can be really difficult to not offer your well meant advice, but at this point all you want to do is to provide a non-judgmental space to think! You are not there to give answers, your job is to help them ask questions!


  1. Support their choice

If your college kid is one of the less than 20% of seniors who have figured out what they want as a career, then you are lucky.  Support their choice, no matter how crazy it may sound at first (What you want to rescue turtles in Brazil?! – Sure, why not!) Millennials no longer want to make big bucks but much rather make a real impact in the world they care for. The key word here is exploration!  Let your college student develop a sense of responsibility that will positively shape them for the rest of their careers and think of their more questionable career choices as an opportunity for them to develop focus, integrity and leadership skills.


Careers don’t fit in a gift box or do they?

A clear career path does not fit in a gift box. But with a bit of preparation and patience your student is much more likely to start asking themselves these all so important career questions and the earlier the better.

Do you want to do more this holiday season? Why not ask one of our career experts to help your young adult figure out what they are really good at and types of organizations where they will thrive. We are here to help you- so if you are still unsure about all this career talk, then call or email us!


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