Parent College Coach Tip #99: Support Your Teen’s Career Aspirations


Research shows that parents are the number one influence in the career and college major choices made by their children.  That influence may be subtle, and beyond the conscious awareness of the child, or often not so subtle. Parents have been known to push a child into a career path for numerous reasons, most have nothing to do with the child’s interests. 

Growing up, my parents had some friends who insisted that their children and even their son-in-laws follow the father’s career path as a doctor. They all attended college and medical school following in his footsteps. They all become doctors, but not all were happy in their careers. Most were miserable and floundered around until finally giving up and leaving the medical profession. Not only did they waste years on their education and a medical degree, but they have never recovered from what they perceived to be a failure.

As parents, it can be most challenging to support a child’s career decision when it goes against the grain of our own personal values and the future we envision for that child.  Yet, we can never know what the future holds and where a chosen path may lead. 

As children grow, they need to cultivate a sense of self in order to one day make their own way in this world.  Along with a growing sense of self, they also need to develop confidence in their ability to take positive action towards their career goals.  This includes learning how to identify their career and lifestyle preferences, how to explore career options that match those preferences, and where to go to gain the skills and life experiences that will move them in a direction of their own choosing.  

Parents can help their children to build self-confidence by telling them they believe in their ability to take positive action on their own behalf.  Parents can also facilitate a growing sense of self by encouraging their children to engage in activities and experiences that let them explore and test their career interests, so that they are making informed choices.  As parents, we are the number one influence in the lives of our children.  It’s up to us to decide the form that our influence will take.

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