One of the most valuable things parents can do to help a student with career planning is very simple: listen without judgment. Ask non-leading questions, be open to your student’s ideas, and encourage your student to explore all of the opportunities a Kalamazoo College education affords. For information for your first-year student, please download our Guide for Families of First-Year Students (PDF 2.7 MB).
Here are 10 other ways you can help:
1. Encourage your son or daughter to visit the CCPD “early and often”
Anytime your son or daughter expresses interest, enthusiasm or anxiety about his/her future, suggest that s/he visit the CCPD. Meetings with a career coach can take place at any point during a student’s college career. The sooner your son or daughter becomes familiar with the CCPD’s staff, resources, and programs, the better prepared he or she will be to make wise career decisions.
2. Advise your student to create a résumé and a LinkedIn profile
Writing a résumé can be a "reality test" and can help a student identify strengths and opportunities for improvement. Suggest your student use the CCPD’s résumé resource [move link to Guide here] to get started. You can review their résumé drafts for grammar, spelling, and content, and then recommend a critique by a Career Associate (specially trained student advisors) or a career coach.
Your student’s basic résumé will help populate a LinkedIn profile, an important complement to a paper résumé in today’s virtual job market. Again, the CCPD can guide development of this important professional tool. If you have a LinkedIn profile, you might offer to connect with your student to allow access to your professional network.
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 your student’s 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,
- Reviewing the LinkedIn profiles of alumni professionals in the Kalamazoo College Professional Networking Group
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 decision-making 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.
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 identify summer internships for rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors through the Center for Career and Professional Development Internship 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
Suggest that your student 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. Ask about lectures and performances taking place on campus. When your sone or daughter is home on break, discuss major world and business issues.
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:
- If your company hires summer interns, share the internship listings with the CCPD—and the same goes for jobs.
- Use your "real world" experience to offer advice to students about their career options by participating in the Kalamazoo College Professional Networking Group.
- Finally, parents may offer to host student Externs through the Discovery Externship program.
For more resources for parents of current K students, please visit: https://reason.kzoo.edu/parents/