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Career Planning for Families:
It's late summer and your student is preparing for the start of the academic year. Perhaps your student has not yet chosen a major or, if they have, you are not confident that their choice is the best one for them. Furthermore, they may not appear to have a clue about what career field to focus on. Well, these are all common problems.
Even if their current major and career goals seem solid, they may change with time. Decisions about majors and careers arise from a process of exploration that students experience, which moves at different speeds for each individual. Typical steps include:
- Assessing skills, interests, and abilities- an important first step in choosing an appropriate major and identifying careers that may be good fit.
- Exploring majors and career options- this generally starts online, but should involve thoughtful conversations with people working in their field of interest.
- Experimenting with possible career options through experiential learning.
- Developing a plan and preparing for a job or graduate school search by creating a compelling personal message and effective written materials; practicing interviews with a career coach, and researching organizations of interest. This phase begins by writing an effective draft résumé, having it edited, and setting up an account on ETSU’s Handshake at etsu.joinhandshake.com.
- Conducting a job or graduate school search using online resources, and engaging in personal networking with others. On average, 80% of job seekers find employment through other people.
You can support your student and play a productive role in each of these stages. A good place to begin is to get in sync with the experiences most students have in each college year.
First Year Students:
During their first year or so of college, students will be involved (formally or informally) in assessing their skills, interests, and abilities. They will do this through finding success (or failure) in courses they take, engagement in campus activities, discussions with friends and faculty, and exposure to new people, concepts and ways of doing things.
Most students enter college with a very limited knowledge of the vast array of courses and majors available to them. When they begin to delve into studies that are new to them, even those who entered with a plan may be drawn to different options. This is an exciting growth period for students.
What You Can Do to Help
- Support your student's exploration of new areas of study and interest. This is central to what education is all about. Ask questions, listen to answers and be accepting of what your student has to share. Remember, today’s conversation may change considerably in a short time.
- Affirm what you know to be skills and abilities he or she has consistently demonstrated. Sometimes students overlook these and reinforcement of their strengths can be helpful.
- Talk with your student about the courses and activities he or she is enjoying. Students discover new things about themselves throughout the college experience. Your willingness to listen and be a sounding board will keep you in the loop.
- Don't panic if your student is excited about majoring in something like English, history, or art. These can be excellent choices, particularly if they are a good match for a student's interests and skills.
- Support your student’s responsible involvement in campus activities while reminding them that academic achievement is also important. This is not an either-or choice. Becoming involved in campus clubs and organizations, and community volunteer activities, often reinforces success in the classroom. Extracurricular activities provide the opportunity for students to gain many valuable and career-related skills, such as the ability to work effectively in a team environment; communicate verbally and in writing, provide leadership; planning and organizational skills; problem solving and time management. Encourage your student to consider approved ETSU Student Organizations searchable from etsu.campuslabs.com/engage/organizations or to participate in community outreach activities. Employers value these experiences in making new hires.
- Urge your student to use the many resources offered by University Career Services. At ETSU, our career consultants offer assessments like Focus 2, numerous resources to support student success, and the perspective of professionals experienced in advising students at every stage of career development. Here, it is OK to be undecided, to ask questions, and find support in learning about majors and careers.
Second Year Students:
During the second year of college, students generally begin to explore majors and career options with more focus. They will continue taking courses in core curricula that will help to inform the choices they make, and learn more about campus activities and resources. Again, Career Services is a central resource for exploration. Students can gain “real world” insight by locating an alumni mentor, finding an internship, or engaging in other forms of experiential education through Career Services.
What You Can Do to Help
- If you sense that your student’s indecision is a barrier to positive progress, urge that he or she look for assistance in Career Services. Students often have difficulty making a choice at this point because they fear they may close off options. However, not making a choice can close some options as well.
- Suggest that your student talk with Faculty, Career Advisors, and Academic Advisors about potential choices.
- Direct your student to family, friends, colleagues and professionals who are in fields in which he or she has an interest. "Informational interviewing" with people can be extremely helpful at this stage.
- Hint: The sophomore year is an important one for students considering professional schools like business, health sciences and others that require the completion of prerequisite courses prior to admission.
Third Year Students:
During the junior year, it is important for students to experiment with possible career options. Career Services will assist students in exploring internships, cooperative education programs, summer jobs, campus jobs, and responsible volunteer experiences both on campus and in the local community. This is a critical time for your support and encouragement.
What You Can Do to Help
- Encourage your student to use the resources of Career Services to prepare an effective résumé and learn to identify and connect with additional opportunities to test career choices. Through Handshake and personal knowledge of area employers, career advisors can help make the connections they need.
- Let your student know that you understand the importance of gaining exposure to and experience in his or her field of career interest. Broadening experience through involvement outside the classroom is a valuable use of time.
- Internships or summer experiences may be non-paying. Also, a good opportunity may be in a distant location. Discuss financial expectations with your student before he or she makes a commitment.
- Allow your student to conduct his or her own internship or summer job search. You can help by providing them with networking contacts or names of people who may be helpful to them. However, we advise you to resist the temptation to make contacts and speak for your student yourself. That will deprive him or her of an important learning experience and may make a poor impression on the employer.
The senior year is generally the time when organizing and conducting a job search or graduate school search begins in earnest. It is also a time when students are involved in more advanced courses and may have leadership roles in campus and volunteer activities. Balancing these important pursuits and setting priorities is a constant challenge for seniors.
University Career Services maintains the Handshake site at ETSU, with a large number of employers listing jobs for new graduates. This is the year for students to engage in résumé editing, job search planning and preparation, practice interviews and networking.
What You Can Do to Help
- Suggest that he or she use Career Services throughout the senior year. Searching for meaningful employment is competitive, and data collected by the National Association of Colleges and Employers demonstrates that students who use their career center are more successful, more quickly, than students who “go it alone.”
- In addition to individual appointments and résumé walk-in hours, Career staff conduct outreach presentations in classes, hold workshops on a pre-announced schedule, sponsor career fairs in the fall and spring semesters, schedule employer interviews on campus, and maintain current job lists on Handshake. The ETSU Career Services office maintains many additional resources for student use in person and on our website at www.etsu.edu/careers.
- Encourage your student to attend career programs and take advantage of individual appointments to ensure adequate preparation for his or her success.
- Do not call potential employers to intervene for your student. Contact with employers is the candidate's responsibility.
- Be prepared to support your student through the emotional challenges of the job and graduate school search. The path can be long. In addition, applicants today can expect little feedback from prospective employers in response to applications. So, completing a job search requires self-confidence and self-motivation to keep going. Let your student know that persistence pays off, and you understand the time and energy they put into their search.
The college years are a time of exploration, experimentation, and learning on many levels for students and their families. Some student challenges may seem difficult, but all contribute to useful experience and positive educational outcomes.
Throughout these years, students are developing a "record of achievement" that will be evaluated by employers and graduate schools as they move beyond college. There are several elements of this record:
- Academic Achievement. The grade point average (GPA) is one factor considered by competitive employers and graduate schools. It is one of the few tangible indicators of a student's ability to learn and perform effectively, at least in the academic environment. Therefore, students need to perform at their best in the classroom, especially in courses in their majors.
- Relevant Work Experience. In today's competitive employment market, many employers seek students who have related internship, summer, cooperative education, or part-time job and volunteer experiences. In fact, employers often look to their own internship programs as primary sources for new hires.
- Responsible Involvement (Outside the Classroom). Extracurricular activities provide the opportunity for students to gain many valuable career-related skills, such as the ability to work effectively in a team environment; communicate verbally and in writing, provide leadership; planning and organizational skills; problem solving and time management. These activities improve the package of skills which employers seek in new hires.
Best wishes to you and your student. Be assured that Career Services is dedicated to student success, and will be available to your student as she or he works to complete a degree and prepare for a future career.