The parent as a career guidance counsellor

We all know the importance of career guidance and that is why all big corporates and universities spend time and money hosting and attending these events. However, what has become apparent, is how little to none of these events ever focus on the role of the parent in guiding their children’s career choices, even though the parent plays a significant role in the ability to further studies, in subjects chosen and ultimately the career of the child.

We believe strongly that the parent’s role is important and therefore the parent must be equipped with the necessary information and tools to provide good guidance to their children. We also believe that much of what the parent needs, they already have in their disposal. This article will focus on how the parent can use their experiences and acquired knowledge to help guide their learners. If you are looking for practical steps on how to help your child make informed subject choices that affect their future careers, have a look at an article we wrote recently with a step-by-step guide and an overview of subject selection.

No knowledge or experience is ever wasted. Your knowledge and experience in your career so far, and your knowledge of your child (although impartial) qualify you to be their career guidance counsellor – at least their first one. What is important is how you play this role effectively. Here’s what we suggest:

1. Understand what career guidance is

Simply defined, career guidance is the assistance of individuals to make and implement informed educational and career choices. The key takeaway words are assistance, individuals, make and implement, informed, educational and career, choices.

2. Be a Guide

The idea of being a guide is an important one – your role is to show your child around the world of work and offer information and explanations that give them context and improves their knowledge. If implies that you need to know your way around, and you need only offer direction and encouragement. You have already build a strong and sustainable career for yourself and you have friends and colleagues in your network who have done the same. There is a wealth of knowledge that you can tap into to offer your child the guidance he/she requires. You may need to take some time to reflect on what your career journey has taught you, but once you do, you will notice just how much you have learned about the world of work and how to make it work…these are lessons your child needs to know.

3. Customise your guidance

If you have more than one child, they most likely were born at different times, have different names and most are different people, in personality and character. Therefore, when providing guidance, it is important to acknowledge their individuality and customise your guidance to it. A general approach and worse, comparisons between your children, will lead to a lack of confidence and cause frustrations for all parties involved. Remember you are a guide, and the best guides ensure that each of their guests has unique experiences, which speaks to their interests, needs and backgrounds. No one can do this better for your children than you can.

4. Provide valuable information

Don’t cheat your child. There is a wealth of information they can find online by just completing a quick search, however, there is information that only your experiences have provided you with, that cannot be “googled”. For example:

a) You know that your work takes up at least 40 years of your now 65 year expected life expectancy (meaning by the time you are due to retire, you will most likely be dying…sorry). It is therefore very important that whatever you do on a day to day basis helps you fulfil your purpose, is enjoyable and earns you a living you are satisfied with and can live on. Finding this combination can be difficult, but it is the pursuit of happiness.

b) You know the difficulty people experience in finding and keeping employment. That companies are looking for specific skills and for people who will contribute to the growth of the company, are innovative and have an ambition for the company they work for and/or build, not just bench warmers who are waiting for step-by-step instructions and cannot work independently. On the other hand, when starting and running your own business, achieving traction and growth is difficult and requires a lot of resilience, creativity and initial bootstrapping.

c) You also know that whatever career you have chosen, it is not necessarily the career that you will do until retirement. The world is constantly changing, and only those who can adapt to the changes achieve long-term success, especially considering the 4th industrial revolution. What is important is to make choices that enable you to be flexible and move around careers with ease as the world, your interests and needs change.
With everything that you know, that experience has taught you, you have a lot of valuable wisdom to offer your child. The wealth of the information your child has at their disposal will enable them to make informed decisions, including how to prepare for the world before compulsory education.

Where you don’t know, ask. There are many resources available in schools, universities and the department of education that will enable you to provide valuable technical and non-technical information to your child. Enjoy this time of exploration together.

5. Help them implement

We’d like to believe that making decisions is easy. Acting on those decisions, however, is another story. Once you have assisted your child in mining through the mountain of information, deal with their anxieties and finally make decisions about where they are going and how they will get there, help them put that plan into action. Your role remains that of the guide and your child takes up the reigns and learns valuable lessons in life – life is a series of choices and at the end, our life will reflect the choices we have made, those we regret and those we are proud of.

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