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					                          TIPS FOR PARENTS
 By Dr. Jack Russel (counselor, therapist, parent with two daughters, and
                     grandparent with five grandkids)

Sometimes the choice of a career can be difficult. Some of our students begin
their first year with definite career ideas and a plan while others are uncertain.
Frequently, students will change their plan – either they discover they are not
interested or that they are not able to successfully accomplish the course
requirements at the required level. Students tend to choose what they know.
However, with more than 30,000 job titles available, perhaps they might have
overlooked an appropriate career.


    The happy history student may have an easier time finding work than the
disgruntled business student. I have counseled many students who have
expressed a lack of support from their parents. Several factors may contribute to
this. Education is expensive and parents who pay the bills may want to see a
return on their investments. The pressure imposed on students however may
actually back fire. A parent, who is pressuring their son or daughter to make a
career decision, may either be contributing to the rebellious student or the
student may make up a career to get the parent off their back. The career they
choose will be one the parent likes and not the one that is interesting to the
student. Sometimes a parent may impose their values onto the student.
Assuming that accounting and business would be more practical, the parent may
push this career choice when the student would rather be an historian.
Encourage your students to explore courses and careers in which they are
interested and to make decisions when they are ready to do so.

                          BE AN INFORMED PARENT

    Your student may come to you for advice. Arm yourself with career relevant
information. A recent national survey of university students and their career
needs informed us that approximately 45% of Western students discuss career
questions with their parents. You can find most anything you want about career
development for first year and upper year students on our web site – Ideas on what students might do with their degree can be
found at

                                  START EARLY

    The early bird gets the proverbial worm. Many first year students are dealing
with adjustment and transition concerns and the thought of career planning is
fairly remote. There are many things your student can do during first year to
prepare themselves for their future career. Often the best summer job
experiences are posted in the fall of first year. Students who are thinking early
about their career and integrating valuable summer work will be ahead of the
game. Early in the first term, the University Student Council operates Clubs
Week, where students can find ways to follow their interests and further their
skills. Students can begin to make it a habit to check out activities at the Career
Centre @ Western by visiting
                          BALANCE WORK AND PLAY

  All work and no fun make for an unhappy student. Marks are important and
doing the best you can in a course is an excellent goal, but equally important is
being involved in campus and community activities through volunteering.
Employers inform us that marks are not always what will help a student find work.
The students who find jobs are those who have strong communication skills, are
able to get along with others through team and group work, are flexible and
adaptable, and present themselves with confidence. Students can have fun and
develop these skills at the same time. A complete list of employability skills can
be found on this web site:


  Many programs offer students opportunities for internships and co-ops. Having
these experiences as a goal will provide direction and incentive to your first year
student. It is an excellent way to enhance career success. Competition for
internship and co-op positions is stiff and good marks and extra curricular
involvement will help the student immensely. Internships and co-ops are the
deepest form of career exploration. Students acquire hands-on experiences to
help them determine whether they have made the right career choice. Often
students are hired by the company that gave them their internship experience
upon graduation.

                    NETWORKING OR “SCHMOOZING 101”

Encourage your student in the art of networking and socializing. I learned more
outside of the classroom than in it while an undergraduate. Though I spent
plenty of hours in class, it was what I did outside of class that really sticks with
me. These outside-of-class activities lead to improved communication skills, self
discipline, and increased comfort in dealing with others. These skills are
important to one’s self identity and will aid in career planning. Research
suggests success in finding work comes from net working and connections with
others. Developing an interpersonal comfort level will provide an excellent
foundation for career success.


   A career choice is an important one and will impact on a student’s future life
style. Many questions need to be asked about that choice but often are not.
More time is often spent on shopping for a piece of clothing than on a career.
We go to a store to purchase a new jacket. We may go to several stores and will
try on a jacket at each store. We first determine if the size is right. Next, we look
at ourselves in the mirror. How do we look? Does the jacket present me the way
I want to be presented? Does it add to who I am or does it take away from that
perception we have of our self? Is the jacket me? Sometimes we will ask a
friend to accompany us and give us their opinion about the jacket. A similar
process can be applied to choosing a career. A career choice is of course more
complicated as students consider the future and life after university. Integrating
life and career in a holistic way is complex and may require the assistance of one
of the career counsellors.

  Scooping ice cream at home during the summer may limit opportunities. As a
Dad of two daughters who went away to university, their mom and I loved it when
they came home for the summer or at least part of the summer. As comforting
as that was, we knew that was more for us than for them. Though I love ice
cream and could be comfortable scooping ice cream because it is safe and
secure, summer can be a time for further career exploration to try out different
jobs or to travel to different countries. Future employers will hire graduates who
have relevant experiences that will add to the value they bring to the company.
Students can be creative about the many ways to make their summer
experiences work to their advantage. On the other hand many students are
strapped financially and need to make lots of money to contribute to their
education. Putting a positive spin on all summer experiences is essential to
future employment. Students can visit the career centre to address how to
present their experiences to future employers.


  Many first year students believe that the career centre is more relevant to older
students who are graduating and will put off coming until 3rd or 4th year. The
Centre can be a best step or, one could say, stop for any student. The shy and
quiet student may find it hard to come for help with their career. A student may
be embarrassed to admit that they are uncertain about their choices. A student
who procrastinates might keep avoiding the issue. These students can benefit
from speaking with a professional who will understand their concerns and be able
to assist them with their career plans. Students can also visit the Employment
Help Centre on a drop-in basis and chat with professionals and trained student
career leaders.