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Parents Make Five Common 
Mistakes Helping New Grads Find 
the Right Career Path

by Leslie Godwin, MFCC
Career and Life-Transition Coach

What parent doesn't want their graduating child to get a good job and have a great life? The problem is that most parents make five mistakes that will add years to the time they can turn their child's room into a guest room. They even make it harder for their children to enjoy their careers in the years to come.

So how can parents:

  • Avoid the mistakes most parents make when helping their child choose a career path?
  • Help their kids have the right approach to their career search, and eventually marriage and family?
  • Avoid having a 23 year old couch potato in their living room in a few years?

Five common mistakes that parents make in their efforts to help their grads find the right career path, and some tips to avoid them:

1. Don't let your anxiety cause you to advise your child to choose a "safe" career path. Anxious parents advise their child to be overly sensible in career choices so that they don't have to worry as much. They refer to their child's ideas by noting, "That won't pay the bills" and advise them to "be realistic." This means that their child won't take what might be the only opportunity in their life to explore what they feel is their calling, try out different ideas, and learn from their experiences.

2. Don't hover. Children need to be self-motivated and deal with natural consequences. Hovering is a great way to wind up with a 23 year old couch potato.

3. Don't guide your child toward a prestigious job so you can brag to your friends. Actually, parents do this because they believe that if their child is outwardly successful, they'll be happy, even though external success has almost nothing to do with feeling fulfilled. The bragging is just a side-benefit.

4. Don't lecture. Be a role model. Do what you love (especially parenting) with enthusiasm, curiosity, and passion. Your child will learn how to do something they love from your example.

5. Don't pressure daughters to find a career path that will prevent them from being a stay-at-home-mom. Telling your daughter that "she can be anything she wants to be" is great. But what if she wants to be a stay-at-home-mom someday? There are certain careers that don't allow the flexibility to take several years off or work part-time from home. Some examples are partner in most law firms, physician, and many jobs in the entertainment industry. Whether or not you were a stay-at-home-parent, ask your daughters to think about the possibility that they may want to be one. Encourage them to consider full-time parenthood as a future career option. If they can bring up a child, they'll be well-qualified for just about anything when they resume their career path!

Finding the right career path means staying in touch with your intuition and noticing what you are drawn toward. Being overly concerned about security or status and being afraid of rejection gets in the way of following your calling and seeing where it leads.

It's a lot easier to figure out a way to make a living doing what you love, than it is to figure out what you love when you're in your 40's with a family and you barely remember what you were once passionate about. So let your children stay in touch with what they care about and they'll eventually figure out how to turn that into an income. You may find that having a happy adult child with a meaningful career is something to brag about!

Leslie Godwin, MFCC is a Career & Life-Transition Coach, Writer, and Speaker. She publishes a free email newsletter on career and life transition. For information, email and mention that you'd like to be on the email newsletter list.


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