By: Pat Donahue, Executive Director for Career Development
As a parent of two daughters at IU, I am very excited to see them for Thanksgiving. Because we live in Bloomington, I see them quite often, usually when they are borrowing the washing machine for laundry, borrowing the car to go out with their friends, or borrowing money from my wallet.
But Thanksgiving is different. Students, especially those who are exploratory and unsure of their career plans, dread the Thanksgiving meal because they are going to face that question that all college students throughout history have faced: “What are you going to do after you graduate?”
This question is usually delivered by an uncle who had one too many while deep frying the turkey that morning. Or any relative who had to sleep on an air mattress the night before. Either way, THE QUESTION is out there, so how do you discuss it with your daughter or son?
Discussing career plans can sometimes be difficult to navigate, so strive to keep the lines of communication open and plan for what you want to say.
If your student is still exploring as a freshman, that’s okay. Ask them what academic or career planning steps they have taken to resolve their indecision. Suggest meeting with their career coach, taking a career exploration course, or actively exploring career options by researching career information online or through job shadowing. The holidays are a great time for students to meet future colleagues by conducting informational interviews with professionals in the careers they are considering. Some of the best networking suggestions start at the Thanksgiving table.
If your student has decided on what career they want to pursue, suggest they meet with their career coach to develop a job or internship search strategy. Their career coach can help them write a professional resume and cover letter, teach them how and where to apply for positions, and conduct mock interviews with them so they will be prepared for the real deal. A career coach can also help with negotiating skills and researching starting salary and benefits. If they are considering graduate school, a career coach can help them with the application process.
Some of the most common online resources include:
University Division Explore Tool
IU Career Guides
CDC Major Guides
Career Development Center Resource Library
O*NET (Occupational Information Network)
Occupational Outlook Handbook
Usually, the more information students have, the more informed their decision making will be. But sometimes, students can feel inundated with information, and talking to their families and career coach can help them sift through the information to find the gold nuggets they need.
Timing when advice will be best received is not easy to calculate, but I hope if career planning pops up like a turkey thermometer at your Thanksgiving, you will feel better prepared to help your daughter or son.
As Harry Truman said, “I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it.”