by Gloria Welton
Research has told us that parents or caregivers have the most influence over their children when it comes to career decisions.
However, there is a lot of pressure on parents to know all there is to know to offer their child a broad range of perspectives.
Michael Ford and Danielle Kershaw of Simon Fraser University in British Columbia recently opened a conversation at a national career development conference around the idea that parents need help as they help their children with career planning.
Among their other work and studies, both Michael and Danielle teach classes and work within the Career Development faculty at the university. They work with a variety of people at various ages and stages of career planning at the post-secondary level.
They are also parents of high-school students and both say their families are in the thick of the what’s next conversation with their children. Even though she works in this field, Danielle personally knows the anxiety involved in helping a child make career decisions.
The ties that bind us. Michael says a recent study by Brainstorm Strategy Inc. in 2019 clearly identifies the huge impact parents have on their children. The family context has been, is, and will most likely always be the most significant force on adolescence.
“As career advisers, the youth who come to see us in our work settings are often lost and confused,” says Danielle. “Although parents have a great influence, studies show that many parents do not know how to help or where to go to for assistance to help their child, and it becomes very frustrating, and anxiety ridden on both sides.” Danielle referred to resources such as The Parent’s Guide to the Career Playbook, which she says has excellent articles and suggestions.
Why have this conversation now? Michael says this topic is even more important now because the pandemic has raised the stakes quite a bit and helping with career choices is a way to support the futures of our youth. “The pressures that are now on parents comes out in our conversations with our children.
“It is hard to keep up with trends such as the increased cost of living, gig work, access to opportunities, and a rapidly changing world of work where jobs are created and eliminated at a fast pace.”
How can Career Development Professionals support parents/caregivers as they support their children?
Who can help parents guide children who are in secondary or post-secondary, or out of school and drifting without direction?
“Three players could be involved in the dynamics of youth going through this stage in life: the youth, the parents, and the career development professional,” says Michael.
Danielle talked about a student she is working with who is very lost in his career plans and not sure what to do. “He chose his degree based on what his parents wanted him to do and is graduating soon. His parents felt that business, economics, or sciences were the only path, and the youth went along with them despite his feelings.
“He came to see me feeling very lost, confused and struggling with the feeling he was on the wrong path. Many career planners make decisions based on the opinions of others without considering their own. This student is an example of what a lot of young people face when they have not weighed out how the chosen career is a fit for them.”
She says it natural for parents to want to help their children succeed. “In a book called Parenting Out of Control: Anxious Parents in Uncertain Times, the author talks about how parents today are more involved in the lives of their children than ever before.
“What does this mean for the youth? Can parents be expected to guide their children around career decisions when the world of work is changing so fast?”
Career Development Professionals can help with exploring the labour market and educational streams. They can also help connect career planners to those in the community who can help them find a good fit based on interests, preferences, values, and abilities.
Danielle says having a broader outlook on current career options and trends gives youth more solid information. “I wish that I could offer this information to parents and help them overcome misconceptions and differences of opinion between parents and their children.”