Information for parents

How you as a parent can help with course and career choice

Massey's career advisers won’t tell your son or daughter what to study or what to choose as a career. Rather, they aim to help them to explore the factors which influence these choices. That being said, you as a parent could be the single biggest influence on their decisions. It is likely that your support, guidance, and information are more valued than you imagine.  

Tips for helping

As well as encouraging your son or daughter to make use of the support available to them from the university, it’s useful to remember that:

Making decisions about career and study can be difficult and scary

Often it is easier to say "I am going to study …" rather than "I don’t know" when asked about the future. It is often very hard to change these plans and many poor decisions can be based on panic rather than planning.

You can help them with their planning and thinking

Listen to their early thoughts - even if they appear unrealistic and inappropriate.

It pays to engage in enquiry

Rather than judging decisions as good or bad, engage in conversations about "why". Help them to explore what it is that the find attractive and appealing about the fields of interest to them. What might be less appealing? Where could they find additional information? In what ways do they feel that they have the skills and qualities necessary? What are these skills and qualities and what activities have they engaged in previously which demonstrate their strengths, skills and interests?

Many of their thoughts are just that

They are just thoughts and ideas - rather than definite plans, so don’t be distressed if they appear unrealistic.

It is your child’s future that is being discussed

They are the ones who need to be passionate about their future rather than about what you think they should value and be attracted to. If you give them space to express their thoughts they are less likely to feel that they need to follow clearly unsuitable directions.

You are not expected to be the expert on careers and university

Permit others to take that role but join with your son or daughter to seek out appropriate help and information. By doing so they are more likely to use you as a sounding board in the future. Be a collaborator rather than an expert.

Specific end goals are seldom necessary

Many university courses do not lead to specific careers but the variety of options start to become clear along the way. Don’t panic if they are not clear about the eventual outcome. Indeed, it is now common to change employers - and possibly careers - a number of times in a working life. Employers commonly do not require specific qualifications and the reality of the modern marketplace demands much greater adaptability and flexibility than even ten years ago.

It is good to give them scope to dream and to explore and experiment

Sometimes there really is no substitute for the opportunity to experience or imagine possibilities.

 Who can help with course choice, or with changing course?

Students are very often unsure that they’ve made the ‘right’ choice(s) of subject - and of the papers that make up the qualification. You can access details of who can help with this here.

Additionally, we can assist individuals to explore what it might be that they are looking for from their time at university or what sorts of work might be attractive to them. These sources of help can be accessed at any stage before and during your child’s time at university.

What else might be important?

Your son or daughter may well find that they enjoy everything about their course and their time at university. For many students though, there are occasions when things go less well. Again help is available - from sources that include: 

A young person's career planning - how you as a parent can help

You’ll want your child to make informed and fulfilling career choices and we can work with you to help them to achieve this.  We offer your child access to information; advice; skill development and job opportunities and your support and encouragement can help them to commit to career exploration. Ideally, we’d like your child to make contact with us early in their time at Massey – or even before they start their studies.  No matter when they do though, we can help them to carry out a systematic review of who they are; what ‘makes them tick’; what they want from a career and how they might get there.

What might your role be?

You have many skills and talents that you can draw upon to help your child.  These include, but are not limited to:

Supporter

Your child has many career options and you can support him or her to explore these.  Support is crucial as career planning and today’s world of work can often seem scary and daunting, particularly for those with little experience. You can support your child every step of the way as they explore their unique talents and their options; build their knowledge and skills base; try out new things; gain relevant experience and plan for their future – all key elements in a successful transition from university to a rewarding career.

Encourager

As your child explores their options and builds their knowledge of careers encourage this behaviour.

Career search is built from a range of activities and employers are keen to hire people who can show self-awareness; good knowledge of the role they’re seeking and the ability to apply relevant skills. University is a time when your child will experience new things and new people.  As a result, it is common for students to change their minds and don’t be too concerned if your child is one who does.  Indeed, you could encourage them to seek challenges; to study widely; to network with people and to engage with activities on and off campus.

Where you can, encourage your child to ask questions.  It is possible that he or she has only considered a limited range of careers, and knows little about them.  Through effective questioning this range and depth can be extended.  As a start, by enquiring about what graduates from his or her discipline have gone on to do, your child may see the working world as more ‘real’.

Mirror

To be happy, your child will want to choose a career that is a good fit with his or her unique blend of skills; personality traits; interests; talents and values.  As a mirror you can help your child to reflect on these factors, as he or she might need your help in identifying them or valuing them.

Listener

You can be a sounding board for your child.  For this to happen, you should start or take part in career conversations with them.  These could be around their ideas, concerns and priorities.  Equally, they could be on their abilities and how these relate to career options. Either way, try to offer feedback that is honest and non-judgemental.  Help your child to clarify his or her thinking and to build their ‘sense of self’.  By showing your willingness to listen and engage you’ll encourage their independent decision-making skills; their motivation and their ability to be true to themselves.

Questioner

As with many aspects of life, communication is the key!  When the time is right for you and your child, question them – in a relaxed and informal way.  Ask them the extent to which they have thought about their career.  For some, particularly those who have just begun their university life, this may be not at all.  This is natural as for first year students in particular, the years ahead may feel like insulation from career thinking!

Ask them too about their passions; interests and strengths.  Simply doing so will get them thinking about such things and you could nudge them to consider how these factors might impact upon their choice of career.  Stress that knowing what they don’t want is often as important as knowing what they do want from a career.

Probe the extent to which they are keen to use their subject in work, and what they have done to explore subject-relevant options.  Remember though, that many careers are open to graduates from any discipline and subject is only one element of career choice where it features at all.  Potential employers will usually be interested in many factors – including grades; relevant experience and skills and passion for the work concerned.

Talk to them too about their hopes and concerns; the career ideas that they have and about how they might access help – or how they found the help that they’ve accessed thus far.

Challenger

Done sensitively and positively, it is good to challenge your child.  Is their insight into their talents accurate?  How do they know?  Are their career ideas realistic given those talents and any restrictions that they face regarding finances; location and so on?  Are they aware of the importance of making plans; setting goals and taking career decisions?  Could they be procrastinating over finding work or gaining relevant experience whilst they study?

Being challenged is never a comfortable experience.  However, you can ease any discomfort by suggesting solutions and sources of help.

Sender

By sending your child to work!  Increasingly, employers prefer students who have gained experience relevant to the type of career that they seek to enter.  As a result, universities are placing more emphasis on helping students to find such experience, and on building internships and other forms of work-integrated learning into programmes of study. This type of work experience can be a great opportunity for your child to test out career ideas that they have; develop their skills base; explore roles, sectors and organisations in more depth and to make useful contacts.

Massey’s Career Service can offer advice on relevant experience and how to find it.  Note too that some employers use work experience as a form of ‘extended interview’ and recruit a proportion of their graduate intake from students who have worked for the organisation in vacations; internships or in a part-time capacity.

Resource

Yes, you can also be a resource for your child!  One way of doing so is to help them to meet people engaged in the types of work that interest them.  Who is in your network of contacts – friends; family; colleagues; employers; people whom you share interests and activities with?  How might they help your child to gather information? Another is to talk with them about the work that you do.  Although they may not be keen to follow your career path they may gain greater insight to what to look for (and avoid) in a job; into workplace dynamics; into employer expectations; into reward systems and related factors.

They’ll also gain from hearing about how you have made career decisions; factors you considered; barriers you faced and how you tackled them; your insight into your strengths and weaknesses and about how the ‘work’ you might differ from you the parent.

In conclusion

All of the above takes time and you’ll need to be patient.  Students vary in their career-readiness and many change their minds on their subject and career choices as they move through university. Unsurprisingly, both students and parents often worry about the impact of subject choice on career options.  Whilst it is true that some occupations are discipline specific many employers are open to applicants from a broad range of subject backgrounds.  Of greater interest to them are the transferable skills that the applicant has – particularly the ones relevant to the role.  These can be developed in a range of ways.  Consequently we encourage students to become actively involved in on and off-campus activities that would facilitate this.

Naturally, this includes paid or voluntary work experience.  However, it also includes involvement in clubs and societies; leadership activities and networking initiatives. We also encourage students to choose subjects and a major that interests them and that best matches their skills and talents.  By doing so they are more likely to attain academic success.  That being said, we also stress the need for them to research the qualification and skill requirements of the career areas that interest them.

It is important to remember that there is no quick and simple answer to the question “what subjects are the most sought after?”  Easier to answer is “what types of graduate are most in demand?”  The answer:

  • those who have studied what they are good at and enjoyed
  • those who can present themselves well in applications and interviews
  • those who can articulate and evidence relevant skills and qualities
  • those who have researched the career; employer and sector
  • those who know how to find work
  • those who seek out and take life and work opportunities
  • those with a clear and realistic sense of self
  • those with experience of the world of work

Finally, what in particular might influence my son or daughter's career decision making?

Explore some of the major possible influences here.

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