Guide to Career Development for Parents and Families

The most valuable things parents and families can do to help a student with career planning are:

  • Listen
  • Be open to ideas
  • Help your student find information

Here are eight more things you can do to help:

1. Encourage your student to visit Career and Student Employment Services (and you go too!)

Next time you visit Western Michigan University, drop into the office of Career and Student Employment Services and pick up a business card from one of the career development specialists. When your son or daughter is feeling anxious about his/her future, offer the card and say, "Please call this person. They can help you."

Many students use their first semester to "settle into" college life, and so the spring semester of the freshman year is the optimal time to start using Career and Student Employment Services. Ask your student (in an off-handed way), "Have you visited the career services office?" If you hear, "You only go there when you are a senior," then it's time to reassure your student that meeting with a career development specialist can take place at any point—and should take place frequently—throughout a college career.

Career and Student Employment Services offer a full range of career development and job-search help, including:

  • Mock interviews
  • A network of alumni willing to talk about their jobs and careers
  • A library of resources on a wide range of careers
  • Workshops on writing resumes and cover letters
  • A recruiting program
  • Individual advising

2. Advise your student to write a resume

Writing a resume can be a "reality test" and can help a student identify areas that require improvement. Suggest that your student get sample resumes from the Career Development Guide.

You can review resume drafts for grammar, spelling, and content, but recommend that the final product be critiqued by a career coach.

3. Challenge your student to become "occupationally Iiterate."

Ask: "Do you have any ideas about what you might want to do when you graduate?"

If your student seems unsure, you can talk about personal qualities you see as talents and strengths. You can also recommend:

  • Taking a "self-assessment inventory," such as FOCUS or the Myers-Briggs Type
  • Talking to favorite faculty members
  • Researching a variety of interesting career fields and employers, using resources such as O'Net.

A career decision should be a process and not a one-time, last-minute event.

4. Emphasize the importance of internships

Career and Student Employment Services will not "place" your student in a job at graduation. Colleges grant degrees, but not job guarantees, so having relevant experience in this competitive job market is critical.

Your son or daughter can sample career options by completing internships and experimenting with summer employment opportunities or volunteer work.

Why an internship?

  • Employers are interested in communication, problem-solving, and administrative skills, which can be developed through internships.
  • Employers look for experience on a student's resume and often hire from within their own internship programs.
  • Having a high GPA is not enough.
  • A strong letter of recommendation from an internship supervisor may tip the scale of an important interview in their favor.

To learn about experiential learning opportunities, such as internships and other part-time employment, have your student log into BroncoJOBSWMU Internship Catalog offers ideas for internship employers by major. 

5. Encourage extracurricular involvement

Part of experiencing college life is to be involved and active outside the classroom. Interpersonal and leadership skills—qualities valued by future employers—are often developed in extracurricular activities. Review the list of Registered Student Organizations at WMU.

6. Help your student to stay up-to-date with current events

Employers will expect students to know what is happening around them. Buy your student a subscription to the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal.

7. Teach the value of networking

Introduce your student to people who have the careers that are of interest. Suggest your son or daughter contact people in your personal and professional networks for information on summer jobs. Encourage your student to "shadow" someone in the workplace to increase awareness of interesting career fields.

8. Help Career and Student Employment Services

Call Career and Student Employment Services at (269) 387-2745 or email when you have a summer, part-time, or full-time job opening. The staff will help you find a hard-working student. If your company hires interns, have the internships listed in BroncoJOBS. Join the WMU Career Mentors Group in LinkedIn and use your "real world" experience to advise students of their career options. 

Adapted from Thomas J. Denham's "A Parents' Guide to Career Development". Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, copyright holder.