Careers 401—For parents of graduating seniors
The senior year is when organizing and conducting a job search or
graduate school search begins in earnest. It is also a time when
students are heavily involved in more advanced courses in their majors
and often have more responsible roles in campus and/or volunteer
activities. Balancing these important pursuits and setting priorities is
a constant challenge for seniors!
You are probably anxious for this young adult to make a decision—and
yet, he or she may be moving toward closure more slowly than you would
There are a number of ways you can lend support during this
- Suggest that he or she use the campus career center throughout the
senior year. These offices provide assistance in preparation for the
job search offering some or more of the following:
- Workshops and individual help with resume and cover letter
writing, interviewing, and other job-search skills,
- Individual and group career advising,
- A library of books and bookmarks to web sites with links to job
- On-campus interviewing opportunities, and,
- Alumni career consultant or mentor programs may also be a part of
- Don't nag your child about not having a job yet! This will often
have the reverse effect. Use positive reinforcement.
- Offer to assist by sending information you may have found about
the career field of your student's choice and/or job listings that may
be of interest. Listen for indications from the student that you are
getting carried away—and back off!
- Don't call potential employers to intervene for your child.
Contact with potential employers is the candidate's responsibility!
- Be prepared to support your child through the ups and downs of the
job and graduate school search. It can be a bumpy road! Not every
desired job or graduate school acceptance will come through. Your
student will need reassurance that for every door that closes, another
A few final thoughts
The college years are a time of exploration, experimentation, and
learning on many levels for students and their parents! Some student
challenges may seem more positive than others, but all contribute to the
educational outcomes of the college or university experience.
Throughout these years, students are developing a "record of
achievement" which will be evaluated by employers and graduate schools
as they move beyond college. There are several pieces of this record:
Academic achievement. Although it is not (and should not be) the
primary factor in determining a candidate's success, the grade point
average (GPA) is one factor considered by competitive employers and
graduate schools. It is one of the few tangible indications of a
student's ability to learn and perform effectively, at least in the
academic environment. Therefore, students need to do as well as possible
in the classroom, especially in courses in their majors.
Responsible work experience. In today's competitive employment
market, many employers seek students who have related internship,
summer, cooperative education, or part-time job or volunteer
experiences. In fact, employers often look to their own such programs as
primary sources for their new hires. These experiences are particularly
critical for liberal arts students whose majors may not appear to be
directly related to their areas of career interest.
Responsible involvement outside the classroom. Extracurricular
activities provide the opportunity for students to gain many valuable
and career-related skills such as the ability to work effectively with
others in a team environment; leadership; planning and organizational
skills; and priority-setting and time management. These are part of the
package of skills employers seek in their new hires.
Best of luck to you in navigating the challenging waters of parenting
a college or university student!
Thanks to the National Association of Colleges and Employers for