Your Student’s Career Plans: Tips for Keeping the Peace during Holidays…or Any Time of Year

Primary tabs

When the family of a college student gathers for the holidays and during school breaks, the subject of careers is likely to come up. For some families, these discussions are as smooth as Thanksgiving mashed potatoes and gravy. The student is on track in terms of career planning and employment opportunities, with a clear path for success after graduation. But for other families, when the student is not quite on track in terms of career development, that conversation can feel more like lumpy gravy.

As a parent, it’s understandable that you have lots of questions about your daughter’s or son’s career plans. If you’re footing the tuition bill, you might be worried about the return on your investment. If you packed your child off to college with high hopes for the doors a Georgia Tech degree can open, you are likely to be eager to see those doors flung open. But, before you pepper your student with questions about her or his career plans, make sure you are well informed about how careers develop and what the resources are on campus to support students in their career planning and job search.

Here’s a look at how parents and other family members can best support students who are approaching career planning in various ways:


The Hyper-focused Student

Many Georgia Tech students begin their university years with exceptional focus. They come here because they know they want to be a chemical engineer, an architect, a business leader, or a public policy expert. They come here for the opportunity to blend rigorous academic training in their chosen disciplines with practical experience through the myriad research, co-op, and internship experiences available.

Many do keep this focus throughout their years at Georgia Tech. They are satisfied with their major. They engage in experiential education to develop practical skills. And, they can envision themselves working in their chosen field.  Such straightforward paths make for easy conversations at the holiday dinner table.

Strategies for parents of the hyper-focused: Don’t fix what’s not broken! One caveat, however…don’t let your expectations run wild. Just because your son or daughter is on track toward a successful career doesn’t mean there won’t be bumps in the road. A clear focus in second year could start to waver by third year. Or a graduating senior who’s done all the right things might find the job search a little more challenging than anticipated.

With career counseling and job search advising from the Center for Career Discovery and Development (“C2D2”), as well as guidance from faculty and departmental advisors, your student will get over the bumps and be back on track.  For now, be grateful that your student is on the right path, but don’t let yourself be lulled into complacency only to be blindsided by a deviation in the future.


The Rudderless Student

What about those students who are not so focused? Maybe they began college with a clear direction but have begun to doubt their choice of major or area of specialization. At spring break your son told you he wants to go in a new direction, then after testing out that direction through a summer internship he decided to go in a newer direction, and by Thanksgiving or winter break he has a “newest” direction. Your head is spinning with all the changes and you’re concerned he is floating along without a rudder.

Or, maybe your daughter does have a career objective but isn’t doing anything to work toward it. She complains that there is no time left after studying and extra-curriculars to look for an internship or attend career workshops put on by C2D2. Maybe she started a resume sophomore year and never got past the first few lines. You fear that she’s going to reach graduation day having done nothing to secure employment or apply for graduate school, should that be the desired option.

Strategies for parents of the rudderless: In either of the cases above, your best strategy is to be understanding and patient, as well as to remind your student of the support available on campus. When students flounder in terms of career focus or seem unmotivated to work on their career plans, parents aren’t automatically doomed to a lifetime of kids living in the basement working odd jobs after getting an expensive college education.

C2D2 has career counselors on staff to help students assess who they are and explore what’s out there for them in the world of work so that they can make sound decisions. And for those who say they don’t have time to think about career planning or use campus career services, encourage them to spare 30 minutes to speak with a career advisor who can help them break down career planning activities into manageable, bite-size chunks. Your students can keep up with schoolwork, do a sport, play in the band, and enjoy Greek life while still working gradually toward their futures!


The Know-it-All Student

What if you see that your student needs career help and isn’t willing to ask for it, much less accept it? Or, perhaps your son or daughter is on track with career planning but you know you have something more to offer. Perhaps you are well connected and have contacts to share. Perhaps you’ve worked in roles that enable you to give advice on how to look for a job or how to perform well on a job (or on a co-op or internship). You are chomping at the bit to share what you know but your student isn’t receiving.

Strategies for parents of the know-it-all: Recommended strategy here? Don’t beat your head against a wall. Know that your child is probably going to have to hear it from somebody else even if that somebody else is saying essentially the same thing you are. When they come home telling you about the latest, greatest idea they heard from an advisor or maybe in an employer information session held on campus, and it’s exactly what you’ve been trying to tell them, just do that thing we parents hate to do but have to do sometimes – bite your tongue and resist the urge to say, “I told you so.”

And those great contacts you have? Offer up the names, explain why you think your student can learn something from each contact (remember, Georgia Tech students love to learn!), and then leave it be. If follow-up is going to happen, it will. Gentle – or not so gentle – nudging from you is unlikely to make it happen any faster.


The Rescue-Me-Please Student

Generally speaking, Georgia Tech students are a focused, motivated, and ambitious bunch. The qualities that enabled them to be accepted at our institution often serve them well when it comes to developing a career. But even the brightest, hardest working students can find it difficult to take initiative when it comes to their career planning and job search. Unlike the “rudderless students,” the “rescue-me” students usually do know what they want and do have time in their days to work toward what they want, but they just don’t see that it’s up to them to make it happen.

Who can blame them? No one’s ever taught them how to manage their careers. They haven’t had enough experience yet to see that careers don’t manage themselves and opportunities aren’t always going to be handed to them on a silver platter. Sure, in some fields the demand for qualified candidates to fill hot jobs is so strong that co-ops, internships, and full-time jobs at graduation practically land in their laps. But this isn’t true for all fields and all majors, and this won’t necessarily be true long-term even in the “hot” jobs.

Strategies for parents of the rescue-me student: If you’re a working parent who’s had twists and turns in your own career – perhaps an undeserved layoff, being passed over for a promotion, starting a business that failed – you know what this is all about. You know that you have to pick yourself up and keep going. No one is going to rescue you. So, how can you help your student who seems to think that opportunities grow on trees? You can be sure not to perpetuate that myth. Don’t coddle and protect. Instead, encourage your student to start early participating in career services offered by C2D2 and any career support offered in their departments or colleges. We don’t just hand over jobs; we teach the skills needed to find jobs and develop a career.

Also, you can tell them about your experiences, but do so in a way that is relevant to your young adult and doesn’t come across as just “war stories” from your life.

What if your student is close to graduating and didn’t start early? It’s never too late to take ownership of one’s career.

While you daughter or son might not fit perfectly into one of the composite types above, consider elements of these types and strategies as you interact with your student around the topic of careers. The key is to strike a balance between being supportive and interested without hovering. Your student will find his or her place in the world, and Georgia Tech’s Center for Career Discovery and Development, along with our faculty and staff colleagues across campus, is here to help make that happen.

For more information on career development support, visit the Center for Career Discovery and Development at By clicking on “Advisors/Majors” on the home page, students can locate and contact the career advisor on the C2D2 team assigned to their major. If you’d like to hire a Georgia Tech student, contact our Employer Relations team at


  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Sara Warner
  • Created: 11/07/2014
  • Modified By: Fletcher Moore
  • Modified: 10/07/2016


No categories were selected.


No keywords were submitted.

Target Audience

No target audience selected.