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How Parents Can Help

One of the most valuable things that parents can do to help a student with career planning is listen; be open to ideas, try to help your student find information, and be nonjudgmental.

Here are 10 other ways you can help:

1. Encourage your son or daughter to visit the CCPD

Many students use their Fall Quarter to "settle into" college life, and so perhaps the Winter Quarter of the freshman year is the optimal time to start utilizing the CCPD. However, anytime your son or daughter is feeling anxious about his/her future, suggest that they visit the office and speak with a career counselor. The CCPD is not just for seniors, and meetings with a career counselor can take place at any point during their college career. The sooner a student becomes familiar with the staff, resources, and programs, the better prepared he or she will be to make wise career decisions. In support of the Kalamazoo College mission to "prepare its graduates to better understand, live successfully within, and provide enlightened leadership to a richly diverse and increasingly complex world," the Center for Career and Professional Development creates meaningful connections to the world of work, empowering Kalamazoo College students to explore, identify and pursue their diverse interests, values and passions, and to develop a framework of skills, networks and knowledge for successful lifelong career planning and professional development.

Goals for Career Development at Kalamazoo College:

Students should be able to:

  • Explore, develop, evaluate, and implement career and education decisions and plans
  • Make informed career choices based on accurate self-knowledge of interests, competencies, expectations, education, experience, personal background, and desired lifestyle
  • Make informed career choices based on information about the world of work and the employment market
  • Obtain career-related experiences with organizations that provide adequate supervision and opportunities for students to reflect upon their learning and career development
  • Prepare job-search competencies and tools to present themselves effectively as candidates for employment and/or as candidates for graduate/professional school study
  • Develop and utilize networks of professional relationships with alumni and other professionals
  • Seek and secure personally suitable post-graduate pursuits that optimize their future educational and employment options and align with their lifelong career plan

2. Advise your student to create a résumé

Writing a résumé can be a "reality test" and can help a student identify strengths and weak areas that require improvement. Suggest your student get sample résumés from the CCPD at You can even review their résumé drafts for grammar, spelling, and content, but recommend that the final product be critiqued by a Career Associate (specially trained student advisors) or a career counselor.

3. Challenge your student to become "occupationally literate"

Ask: "Do you have any ideas about what you might want to do when you graduate?" If your student seems unsure, you can talk about personal qualities you see as talents and strengths. A career decision should be a process and not a one-time, last-minute event; discourage putting this decision off until the senior year. You can also recommend:

  • Talking to favorite faculty members about opportunities,
  • Job shadowing a professional or completing an externship or internship in an interest area,
  • Researching a variety of interesting career fields and employers,
  • Visiting the CCPD

4. Allow your student to make the decision

Even though it is helpful to occasionally ask about career plans or choice of major, too much prodding can backfire. It is okay to make suggestions about majors and career fields, but let your student be the ultimate judge of what is best. Career development can be stressful. Maybe this is the first really big decision that your son or daughter has had to make. Be patient, sympathetic and understanding, even if you do not agree with your child's decisions.

Myth: A student must major in something "practical" or marketable.

  • Truth: Students should follow their own interests and passions.

Myth: Picking your major means picking the career you will have forever.

  • Truth: That is not true anymore. "Major" does not necessarily mean "career," and it is not unusual for a student to change majors. Many students change majors after gaining more information about specific fields of study and career fields of interest. Many students end up doing something very different than originally planned, so do not "freak out" when they come up with seemingly outrageous or impractical ideas. Chances are, their plans will develop and change. It is okay to change majors—and careers.

5. Emphasize the importance of externships, internships, and job experience

The CCPD will not "place" your child in a job at graduation. Colleges grant degrees, but not job guarantees, so having relevant experience in this competitive job market is critical. Your son or daughter can sample career options by completing internships and experimenting with summer externships and internships, employment opportunities or volunteer work. The summer after a student's first or second year is a perfect time to pursue an externship through the Discovery Externship Program, which places students with alumni sponsors for 1-4 week extended job shadows and homestays during the summer. The CCPD can also help secure summer internships for rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors through the Field Experience Program. Employers are interested in communication, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills, which can be developed through these summer opportunities. They also look for experience on a student's résumé and often hire from within their own internship programs. These days a high GPA is not enough.

6. Encourage extracurricular involvement

Part of experiencing college life is to be involved and active outside the classroom. Interpersonal and leadership skills—qualities highly valued by future employers—are often developed in extracurricular activities, and through on campus employment and service-learning.

7. Persuade your student to stay up-to-date with current events

Employers will expect students to know what is happening around them. Encourage your student to subscribe or read the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal or other applicable journals and publications. When they are home on break, discuss major world and business issues with them. There are also a vast number of performances and presentations to attend on campus.

8. Expose your student to the world of work

Most students have a stereotypical view of the workplace. Engage your student in conversations about the world of work. Explain to your son or daughter what you do for a living. Take your son or daughter to your workplace. Additionally, show him or her the value of networking by interacting with your own colleagues. Help your student identify potential employers and internship sites and research industries of interest.

9. Teach the value of networking

Introduce your student to people who have careers/jobs that may be of interest. Suggest your son or daughter contact people in your personal and professional networks for information on summer jobs, internships, or simply for an informational interview. Encourage your student to "shadow" someone in the workplace to increase awareness of interesting career fields. Winter break can be a great time period to pursue such opportunities.

10. Help the CCPD

There are many ways you can partner with the CCPD:


Adapted from article by Thomas J. Denham of and Oberlin College

For more resources for parents of current K students, please visit: