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How much "input" should parents give their children in career counseling?
Old 02-06-2011, 05:24 PM   #1
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How much "input" should parents give their children in career counseling?

A couple of interesting threads on the forum concerning children, their educational costs, and avoiding trainwrecks after turning 18, have me thinking about my own daughters future. She is heading off to college this year and does not have any type of career goal yet. What are some experiences from parents on the forum? Did you assist much? Did they listen? Did they want advice from you?

My main concerns for her are (of course I understand these are my concerns, not necessarily hers): 1) No debt for a 4 year degree 2) A career with job opportunities and liveable income 3) Hopefully satisfaction from her career. At this age she has little knowledge of career choices. I got a plan that can get her out of school in 4 years debt free, but if she changes career choices a time or two that would rack up the costs quickly (and I am not too keen on paying for career due-overs). I also hear stories of students graduating not understanding the limited future and/or income in that field. She pretty much clams up any time I bring the subject up. Anybody have advise/perspective on this?
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Old 02-06-2011, 05:34 PM   #2
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This is far too late for either you or me, but I still will say it. I think we do a disservice to children when we ask them "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

I'll admit that's an okay question up to about age 10, but after that the correct question should be "How do you plan to support yourself when you're living independently?"
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Old 02-06-2011, 05:41 PM   #3
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Realistically, I'd say don't go into debt until she has a realistic career plan, and that includes probability of getting a job that uses the degree. I saw a stat recently that 25% of 20-something college grads aren't working at jobs that use their degrees.

We had four, with four different stories. Some kids are more career focused than others in the same family. I suggested to our middle child that she go to a four year school for two years just for the experience. I wish I had made her a get-out-of-school offer at the end of the second year.
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Old 02-06-2011, 05:50 PM   #4
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Many interns have worked for me over the years. Some learn that what they thought they wanted to do is not what they really want; some learn that it's even better than they thought. I am always giving career guidance, so I try to guide my kids the same way. I have tried to teach them to go try out things and try out jobs. I have taught them how to do informational interviews and take folks to lunch to ask questions. I have taught them how to talk to their professors to get leads. I have taught them how to talk to the parents of their friends to get leads. I have taught them how to read the newspaper for current events and how to think about solving problem for companies and folks in the news.

Do they listen? My interns: Yes. My kids: No.
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Old 02-06-2011, 05:53 PM   #5
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Realistically, I'd say don't go into debt until she has a realistic career plan, and that includes probability of getting a job that uses the degree. I saw a stat recently that 25% of 20-something college grads aren't working at jobs that use their degrees.

We had four, with four different stories. Some kids are more career focused than others in the same family. I suggested to our middle child that she go to a four year school for two years just for the experience. I wish I had made her a get-out-of-school offer at the end of the second year.
I forgot to add she is very academically focused, and a good student who wants to go to college. But at this point it hasnt translated to a career focus.
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Old 02-06-2011, 06:05 PM   #6
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Son completed a Masters in Mechanical Engineering in May and started working in June. He is an only child. I can't remember exactly when he decided to be an engineer. When he was little (8 or 9 years old) he said he would be an architect because he liked to draw. But somewhere along the way, he started working on RC cars, motorcycles etc and decided he wanted to do something with engines. So when he applied for college he had a plan and earned a scholarship for tuition (not room and board). We paid for room & board so no debt.

Nephew went away to college and had no clue about what he wanted to do for a living, but he was a good student and very competitive regarding grades, so he just kept taking classes (general ed stuff) and doing well until he decided to go to physical therapy school. He will graduate with a DPT in May.

To answer your question, I can't see investing more than maybe the first year into a kid who is clueless about their future unless they are doing well with the general ed core classes, in which case I would give a little more time (and money).

I will say that working summers insulating houses made my boy see right quick that he didn't want to do that kind of work for a living.
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Old 02-06-2011, 06:09 PM   #7
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What's her experience with work so far? The idea of a "career" became much more tangible to me after flipping burgers for a few summers.
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Old 02-06-2011, 06:14 PM   #8
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I am fortunate that my older daughter has a clear plan of what she wants to do in college and after. My younger, however, does not have a clue. Therefore, I give her a lot of assistance or guidance, such as discovering her interests and talents, introducing her to various sites of occupational outlooks, and hooking her up (or shadowing) with some of the people who are already working in the field in which she might have an interest. She has decided to pursue a computer science degree and become a software engineer in the medical device industry. We will see if that what she really wants to do.
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Old 02-06-2011, 06:28 PM   #9
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I'm not a parent, but we get a lot of young people "shadowing" us at work. There is a program for this; they have to be at least 18 and sign confidentiality agreements. I wish I had had something like this when I was growing up!

If they have at least narrowed down the field they want, it can be really helpful to do a coop program. That way they get experience and contacts.

What a parent can do, apart from encouraging and arranging shadowing experiences, is to help the young person put together a list of questions to ask about each potential career choice. Not just "what do you do all day?" but "how much control do you have over your work?" and "how much debt did you need to take on?" and "how many nights to you have to work away from home?" and "what are you earning now, and what are your work related expenses?" and "what personal characteristics are required to do this job?".
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Old 02-06-2011, 06:36 PM   #10
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What's her experience with work so far? The idea of a "career" became much more tangible to me after flipping burgers for a few summers.
She got her first minimum wage job at the local roller skating rink last week (she got lucky I had to work in a bus stop restuarant). Maybe that will motivate her thinking. She is taking some career studys in health care in high school, but it seems like she is doing it backwards.... figuring out what she doesnt want to do.
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Old 02-06-2011, 06:41 PM   #11
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Mulligan...a couple of thoughts. Most good 4 year colleges require admittance into a "career path the first year for professional degrees...for things like teaching, nursing, engineering. business..etc.) or no later than first semester second year.
I tend to agree with Independents advice.
I assisted...in the process...quite a bit actually. I was active talking my daughter as early as 10th grade in high school what she might enjoy doing. We talked about things like..."her not liking to work by herself" (people person) so anything requiring her to work alone behind a desk was out. She lifeguarded at the local YMCA for the last 2 summers of high school, loved it. I noticed what she loved was being around people, being connected to "a group"...etc. So...she decided to become a teacher. We talked about other possibilities as well..such as nursing(her dislike of chemistry and math put a stop to that).
So yes...I was actively involved in her career choice. I told her things like "it's important to come out of college being able to get a job - that in my mind that was the purpose of college - otherwise why go?" That "she needs to be able to independently support herself in this society. etc..etc. Told her all sorts of things...to make her realize after 4 years of college that was it from Mom and Dad. Working as a lifeguard at the local YMCA at minimum wage...the last couple of years of high school...and even thru college helped build her independence as well.
As parents we have to be coaches...
Hope this helps...
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Old 02-06-2011, 06:41 PM   #12
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What are some experiences from parents on the forum? Did you assist much? Did they listen? Did they want advice from you?
I could go on for hours . . .DD didn't have a career focus after HS, and wasn't especially excited about the "college hunt." She decided on a local state college, and we agreed to pay (incl a dorm room).
Truth is, her heart wasn't in it and she went because we (esp I) expected it. I don't know if she attended any classes. 18 months later and she's finishing up her cosmetology training. She's happy. She's much more wise to the world today. I don't know exactly how this story turns out, and it is perhaps the biggest concern I've got. But I've learned as much as she has. Lots depends on the child and your relationship, but there may come a time when you have very little influence on events. The time when you learn this may be much later. And the point at which you learn to just accept it is later still.
Many kids just blunder into college, an unthinking extension of their prior 12 years of school. They just major in something and get through it. While they may have heard from people that you can't get a good paying job with the degree they are earning, it doesn't sink in. They aren't scared. If they've lived their life under Mom and Dad's roof, the idea of real bills and obligations is not tangible. And maybe all their friends are in the same major--surely all these people aren't sailing over the falls! This major is one of the most popular on campus!
Help her wake up and click in. College may be more than vocational ed, but few kids (and fewer tuition payers) can afford to blithely ignore the needs of the labor market while they pursue enlightenment at $5000 per term.

Enough rambling. Good luck.
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Old 02-06-2011, 06:44 PM   #13
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I think it depends on the kid. For my older son (aka trainwreck) he was just stubborn never very amenable to discussing options.

Younger son has been the interesting one in a lot of ways. He has extremely strong gifts in math (took calculus at 13 for example), but has zero interest in it. People who know his math gifts always encourage him to major in math. He has no interest in it. Within the past year (!) he has discussed majoring in computer science, psychology, criminal justice, anthropology and English. I have no clue how he will end up. He is in his first year of college and doing well in everything and taking courses that will serve him well in whatever he chooses to major. He is only 16 so it is perhaps harder for him to settle on a choice than a more traditionally aged freshman. We've encouraged him to take an exploratory approach until he finds what he really likes. During this first couple of years I think it is a good time to try out different things and as long as he does well in courses that will give him core credit I'm OK with it. We have had with all our kids lots of discussions about the economic viability of certain careers.

I am very wary of having him or any of my children decide too soon. I did decide my career field at age 18 early in my college career and never deviated from it. It was only in the third year of law school that I realized I didn't really want to be a lawyer. I thought it was too late to change at that point so I practiced law for over 30 years. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had taken a more exploratory approach for a couple of years.
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Old 02-06-2011, 06:45 PM   #14
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I'm not a parent, but we get a lot of young people "shadowing" us at work. There is a program for this; they have to be at least 18 and sign confidentiality agreements. I wish I had had something like this when I was growing up!

If they have at least narrowed down the field they want, it can be really helpful to do a coop program. That way they get experience and contacts.

What a parent can do, apart from encouraging and arranging shadowing experiences, is to help the young person put together a list of questions to ask about each potential career choice. Not just "what do you do all day?" but "how much control do you have over your work?" and "how much debt did you need to take on?" and "how many nights to you have to work away from home?" and "what are you earning now, and what are your work related expenses?" and "what personal characteristics are required to do this job?".
I might try a few of these questions to get her thinking/talking. I believe she thinks I am trying to tell her what career to do.
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Old 02-06-2011, 06:47 PM   #15
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The following is a recent thread on the same topic, in case anyone missed it : What career advice.
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Old 02-06-2011, 06:50 PM   #16
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I wouldn't worry too much about her making a bad career choice - she's young enough to be able to take a Mulligan.
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Old 02-06-2011, 06:51 PM   #17
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I could go on for hours . . .DD didn't have a career focus after HS, and wasn't especially excited about the "college hunt." She decided on a local state college, and we agreed to pay (incl a dorm room).
Truth is, her heart wasn't in it and she went because we (esp I) expected it. I don't know if she attended any classes. 18 months later and she's finishing up her cosmetology training. She's happy. She's much more wise to the world today. I don't know exactly how this story turns out, and it is perhaps the biggest concern I've got. But I've learned as much as she has. Lots depends on the child and your relationship, but there may come a time when you have very little influence on events. The time when you learn this may be much later. And the point at which you learn to just accept it is later still.
Many kids just blunder into college, an unthinking extension of their prior 12 years of school. They just major in something and get through it. While they may have heard from people that you can't get a good paying job with the degree they are earning, it doesn't sink in. They aren't scared. If they've lived their life under Mom and Dad's roof, the idea of real bills and obligations is not tangible. And maybe all their friends are in the same major--surely all these people aren't sailing over the falls! This major is one of the most popular on campus!
Help her wake up and click in. College may be more than vocational ed, but few kids (and fewer tuition payers) can afford to blithely ignore the needs of the labor market while they pursue enlightenment at $5000 per term.

Enough rambling. Good luck.
Many kids just blunder into college, an unthinking extension of their prior 12 years of school. They just major in something and get through it. While they may have heard from people that you can't get a good paying job with the degree they are earning, I think it doesn't sink in. If they've lived their life under Mom and Dad's roof, the idea of real bills and obligations is not tangible. And maybe all their friends are in the same major--surely all these people aren't sailing over the falls! This major is one of the most popular on campus!
Help her wake up and click in. College may be more than vocational ed, but few kids (and fewer tuition payers) can afford to blithely ignore the needs of the workplace while they pursue enlightenment at $5000 per term. Samclem,you most ablely summarized my biggest fear
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Old 02-06-2011, 07:02 PM   #18
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I was there for my daughter as a coach and a guide. At age 12 through her teen years she wanted to be a Vet. She had a short internship in a Vet's office and that changed. Then it was chemistry. She then wanted to go to be a chemical engineer. The school that she choose did not have chemical engineering. Her late mom just check off the box for biomedical engineering as it was the closest engineering subject and she had received a great scholarship.
She had a summer internship doing some actual biomedical work and saw the research done with the animals and she did not want to do that type of biomedical work.
She got her Biomedical degree and I suggested law school as she could become a patent attorney and would not have to work in a research lab.
She started law school but did not like it so she started thinking of a joint law/MBA degree. She heard about a Master's in engineering being offered with a full scholarship and a $1500/month stipend. She enrolled in that program while still in law school. Somehow everything worked out. She got the joint Law/Master's Engineering Degree.
There were not jobs to be found a couple of years ago in her fields. She worked as a recruiter for the Law School for a year.
Last summer she got a job with the US Patent Office in DC as a patent examiner. Her extra engineering degree let her start at a better pay grade. The law degree will allow her to advance to more legal type positions in the future.
I helped her with decisions all along the way. I feel good about the final outcome.
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Old 02-06-2011, 07:19 PM   #19
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I think you need to know your children and do what will work best. Our daughter was/is extremely headstrong and always ignored our advice on principal, so we had try and get her into situations where she got good advice from others. For example, she was very talented at music, and we made sure she got very involved in the music programs at church where even the paid musicians had other occupations to pay the bills such as lawyer, doctor, computer programmer etc. LSU used to publish the starting salaries their graduates got in their first jobs each year so I got a copy of this one year and had one of our friends at church pass this onto her, so she could see what a typical music major got compared to an engineer etc.

When it came to choosing an actual university we said that we'd pay all fees plus some living expenses for either an in-state or neighboring state college as we'd never paid any private schooling up to that point. But we would only pay for one, 4 year, degree. She ended up going out of State to U of T at Austin studying Computer Science with a minor in music. She graduated in style with a 4.0 GPA, joined Big Blue as a software engineer and still loves her music both at church in the choir and playing various instruments in the Austin Civic Wind Ensemble.

With our son, he was very open to all suggestions and keen to work with us on suitable careers. He was given the same deal on financial support, took over 5 years to graduate and needed a small loan to complete his degree. He also took Computer Science but he decided on this as a result of some resudential summer courses he took at LSU, while at High School, and found that he really liked programming.
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Old 02-06-2011, 07:20 PM   #20
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DD wisely scoped the job market before she ever set foot in college. She excelled in, and enjoyed, all levels of math and science in high school. She majored in math in college and, even though she wanted to teach, she had offers from all over the place before she even graduated. Had she not had a realistic goal, she would have spent two years at the local junior college before finishing at a four-year. She has friends with liberal arts degrees who still have trouble finding a job.

The old adage of going away to college for the experience of college life does not hold true in today's economy. It's no longer an embarrassment to live at home, have a part-time job at the mall, and attend a local community college. And graduate debt free.
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