Senin, 09 Agustus 2010

How to Help, Not Hover, in Your Child's Career Decision-Making

By : Selena Dehne

It's become much harder than it used to be for young people to launch a career after college. Many graduate without essential work-ready skills or a clear understanding of which jobs suit them best. Even those who do often flounder in the job market because they don't know how to market themselves to employers or stand out from more experienced candidates.

As a result, many parents feel pressured to get more involved in their child's career planning. And while this is certainly an important step for them to take, career counselor Barbara Cooke warns parents that there are constructive and destructive ways they can do this.

"The term 'helicopter parent' has been used in recent years to describe adults who pay extremely close attention to their children, particularly when they're making college and career decisions. You've heard the horror stories. For example, consider stories you've heard about parents who insinuate themselves into their child's job search, sitting in the waiting room while they interview for a job and hounding human resources to negotiate a better deal," Cooke says.

"Chances are you don't want to be labeled a helicopter parent. You understand the long-term problems your child will face if you micromanage his young adulthood. At the same time, given what you are paying for college and the uncertain job market your child will face, you want to be involved."

In her book "Parent's Guide to College and Careers: How to Help, Not Hover," Cooke offers advice for how parents can better prepare their children to make tough decisions about their education and career without hounding them in the process. Below are a few of her tips:

Consider the difference between guidance and control

Guidance is helping your child identify his strengths and connect those strengths to opportunities in the economy. Control is dictating your child's career choice. Guidance is helping your child get firsthand information about available opportunities. Control is doing the research yourself. Guidance is saying, "I want you to talk to two engineers before you reject an engineering major." Control is saying, "I won't pay for college unless you major in engineering."

Take the pressure off the career-planning process

Help your child separate career information gathering from career decision-making. All you are asking your child to do at this point is to gather information. You are not asking him to make a decision based on that information. Encourage your child to see himself as an objective journalist who is conducting research, interviewing people and observing work environments. He can decide what he wants to do with this information later on.

Encourage informational interviewing

Consider family, friends, colleagues or other people you know who have experience in a career field that interests your child. Help your child arrange a meeting with these people to gather information about their daily work tasks, background, likes, dislikes and suggestions for entering the field.

Have your child complete a career-interest inventory

This is a print or online questionnaire that helps individuals identify the pattern of their interests according to the framework of the test. Your child would answer a series of questions about school subjects, activities, occupations of interest and other preferences. After your child's answers are scored, he will receive an interpretative report that includes a list of job titles that connect to his interests and abilities.

Direct your child to print and online resources

A wealth of materials online, in libraries and in bookstores can help your child discover and learn about hundreds of careers. From information about a job's earnings and education requirements to its projected growth and average annual openings, these materials can answer key questions you may not know the answer to or that your child may not have thought to ask.

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