What Can I Do With My Degree?

How to Support Students in Career Development

As a parent, educator, or advisor supporting a student, you play an integral role in the development of their career. Using strategies that promote healthy, lifelong career management habits, you can help guide students in their career journey and equip them for a successful road ahead.

Keep multiple options open

Talk about all of the possibilities — even the ones that seem impossible. Spend a lot of time broadening ideas before narrowing them down. Be sure to positively engage in all options, allowing your student to analyze themselves and their options.

Avoid falling back on limited knowledge or stereotypes you hold about certain occupations. Do your own research and encourage your student to access many sources of information, including people.

Avoid perpetuating the career myth (i.e. careers can be planned and predictable). Careers are non-linear and are influenced by many factors outside our control. 

  • Ask these open questions:

    Who do you want to be in the world?

    What do you hope to create?

    Who do you hope to inspire?

    How can you make an impact?

    What social issue do you feel passionate about and want to do something about?

    What kind of lifestyle do you want to lead?

When it makes sense, ask questions that lead your student to a more specific answer. For example, they might be trying to decide which summer jobs to apply for, or which volunteer positions to pursue.

  • Ask these specific questions:

    What are some of the next logical possibilities for what you are currently doing (e.g. same type of work in a different environment, different work in the same environment)?

    What possibilities have been suggested by others whose opinions you respect?

    What kinds of work are those whom you consider ‘role models’ doing?

    What kind of work have you dreamed of doing (in the past or currently)?

Help your student draw on existing and emerging strengths and interests, remembering that they will continue to change and evolve. 

Remind them to keep their list of possible career options current and point out potential opportunities as they arise, taking things one step at a time.

Build and maintain genuine relationships

Be a mentor and role model to your student; show them you care about them as a person, apart from everything you expect from them.

Encourage your student to ask for help from people other than you.

Show your student how they can engage in social networking with purpose.

Leverage your own network of contacts and connect your student with helpful people.

Advise your student about appropriate ways in engaging with their network of support. 

Take action and reflect

Ask your student what knowledge and/or skills they want to pursue next and help brainstorm some options (e.g. career information interviews, job shadows, part-time or summer work, volunteering, student groups, extra-curricular activities).

Ask what supports they might need in setting up some activities, including work, learning, and leisure. Leverage your own network of contacts to find potential opportunities.

Be a non-judgmental sounding board for reflection and suggest other ways and people they might reflect/debrief with. 

Let your student know you recognize what they are learning and how they are changing.

Tell your story in different ways

Encourage and support continual reflection.

Offer your perspective on situations, and encourage your student to gather perspectives from others.

Watch for negative self-talk, or stories that hinder the career development of your student (e.g. “I’ll never be good at math.”) and help your student create an alternate narrative (e.g. “I need to work a bit harder at math than I’d like, but when I do work hard, I see results.”).

Define what success means to you

Recognize that your student’s definition of success may be different than your own. Think about the social and cultural forces at play (e.g. generational differences or the current state of work) and be open-minded.

Help your student craft their preferred future by starting where they are at. For example, they might only know they want to work outdoors and nothing else.  

Encourage your student to keep their definition of success current.

Be a non-judgmental sounding board and encourage continual reflection.