Insights for Parents: The Pressure of Choosing a Career


As a parent of a college student and a teenager in high school, one of my biggest questions in my mind is “Am I helping my children with the right information and career guidance?”  Am I helping them understand their unique talents, skills, behaviors and motivators and translate these into identifying a career path that is motivating and fulfilling for them?  

I’ve worked with many teenagers, high school and college students for several years and have gained a few insights. As a full time management consultant, executive coach and executive & student career coach and as a parent, I’m sharing “insights” that I hope are useful to parents. The focus of these insights is specific to parents of teenagers (or college students) who are struggling with helping their son or daughter with career guidance.  So instead of this being advice, please consider these, at best, my insights. 

Here are a few points to consider to reduce the pressure of Career Guidance: 

  1. Be a good listener. Listening with open ears and an open mind is one of the most powerful ways you can help your son or daughter. Listening means “not talking, telling or judging”. Listening means asking open ended questions to learn what is in the mind of your son or daughter?
  2. Observe and create an awareness of their talents and skills. Become very observant of your teenagers skills and talents in their day to day activities at home, schools and in social gatherings. Open ended discussion around these observations creates a heightened awareness among the teenager. This new awareness also motivates them to explore and learn more about these talents and skills on their own.
  3. Be understanding. Choosing a career is a process of exploration and takes time and effort. When helping your son or daughter explore their own talents and the potential careers that will be a good fit, don’t push for an immediate decision, it has to evolve over time in the mind of your child. Choosing a career is not a healthy objective in the short term. A better “parental objective” is to support your son or daughter in exploring their interests, attitudes, motivators (self awareness) and the careers, industries, companies and people that might help them “find” their place in the world. Developing a strategy that ensures they are positioned to pursue the best career for them is an admiral goal and a less frustrating proposition for you and your child.
  4. Approach career exploration as a fun journey. The journey is as certain as life itself. To make career exploration fun means eliminating all of the things that makes it not fun. We parents are very good at telling. Please don’t tell when it comes to career exploration. Parents are very good at sharing their opinions. Please avoid sharing your opinion until your teenager asks for it. Offer support in whatever way your son or daughter wants that support. Remind yourself often how intimidating an exercise this is for son or daughter. Remind them that you were totally blind about careers, that you had no idea how to go about exploring and choosing a career when you were their age and that you were intimidated by the thought of “choosing a career”. Help them create an environment that puts them in control. Within that general guideline, do not allow your son or daughter to put it off (a natural occurrence when we feel intimidation, fear, and incompetent). With little effort, they can learn a lot during the high school years that will put them way ahead of most college students.

You’ll end up turning your frustration into fun and excitement when you watch your son or daughter talk, act and succeed with passion because they own their career choices. This way they not only find their career choices, but are very excited about it and motivated to go the extra mile to succeed. 


Carl Nielson is the developer of Career Coaching for Students™, the premier career exploration program for high school and college students. Nielson is the founder of Success Discoveries (www.successdiscoveries.com) and The Nielson Group (www.nielsongroup.com), an international corporate organizational management consulting firm. Prior to consulting, he served over 20 years in corporate human resources management. He holds a degree in organizational psychology from Texas A&M University. Find Carl on LinkedIn.   Carl speaks to groups on request and offers parent webinars and seminars for communities. 

If you are looking for true career guidance for a student, check out http://www.careercoachingforstudents.net. Are you past the high school and college years? Check out resources and services at Success Discoveries. Professional career coaching services offered.    

Copyright © 2010 Success Discoveries, LLC
Career Coaching for Students™ is a trademark of Success Discoveries, LLC
Life Skills for Students™ is a trademark of Success Discoveries, LLC

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