Influences on career decisions

What might influence a young person’s career decisions?

#request.oFMSBhv.render(caption="7795.jpg",style="float: right;",file_name="7795.jpg",file_uuid="633156C5-AB8B-79D1-930C-0CC24B315771",file_type="jpg",behaviour="default",src="/shadomx/apps/fms/fmsdownload.cfm?file_uuid=633156C5-AB8B-79D1-930C-0CC24B315771&siteName=massey",icon="/shadomx/apps/fms/admin/pics/icon_jpg.gif",0px="",10px="",height="256",width="385")#Many things influence the career decisions of young people.  However, you might be surprised to hear that you, as their parent, are likely to have the strongest influence.  This influence comes through your interactions with them and through your values and beliefs; your comments and your encouragement of their use of their strengths and interests.  However daunting that may sound, rest assured.  We are here to partner you. Their career development will be a process and few students are in the same place in this process at the same time. It’s a process that shouldn’t be rushed; a process that can be tackled systematically and a process that can empower them.  You can engage with them at any stage but their influences could be a good place to start. Let’s take a look at some of them:


  • To what extent is your child interested in what you do for a living?
  • Are they keen to follow the same career path and, if so, have they considered any alternatives?
  • Could you discuss with them what you do, and how you made career decisions?
  • What effects do you think your occupation; background; career history; finances; education; skills and values might have on your child’s career thinking and approach to job seeking?
  • How might your relationships with them, and with other people, play a part in this?

Their friends

  • How well would you say that you knew their friends?
  • Do they look up to some of them more than others and if so, why?
  • Which of their friends have made career plans and what are they?
  • How did they reach those decisions?
  • What interests their friends and what do they value in life?
  • Do their friends still live near them or have they moved away?
  • To what extent do you think they are opting for safe and known career ideas?

Their culture

  • In what ways would you say that their culture; their background and where they live might influence your child’s career aspirations?
  • For example, what importance might they place on the status of the job?  On the potential to earn a good salary?  On opportunities for personal and professional development?  On their ability to save for their future?
  • Equally, is their culture one in which they may be expected to show respect for the wishes of their elders; to care for family members; to support their family financially; to work outside of New Zealand or to seek work in a particular range of roles?

Their family

  • You, and your child’s siblings (particularly older brothers and sisters), can instil aspirations in them – also expectations.
  • Does your child have brothers or sisters who have been to university?  Are they in work?  Do they share their experiences of both with your child – the good and the bad?  How did they tackle decisions that they took on work and study?
  • Is there a type of work that is prevalent in your family?  If so, to what extent might your child be considering that option?

The media

  • Film; television and related media can offer great insights into possible careers.  Equally however, these may not be in any depth and may create unrealistic portrayals of occupations.
  • As a result, consider how you might encourage your child to use such media critically.  Is there a particular genre of film and television that they enjoy?  What roles do the actors play?  Which of these might interest your child – and why?  Media can be a good, relatively un-threatening way of engaging your child in a discussion about their career thoughts.
  • When your child is ready, encourage them to use the media as part of their research into possible careers; employment sectors; employers and the labour market.

Their tutors

  • Students often have very strong views on ‘good’ and ‘bad’ tutors.  Chances are the good are ones who show a passion for the subject they are teaching and have great skills in engaging their students.
  • Tutors may well have links with employers, knowledge of the careers that their students pursue on graduation and knowledge of your child that they can use if being asked to be a referee.

Government policy

  • Perhaps subtly, government policy may have a part to play.  This can be through efforts to encourage young people to enter career areas where the country is experiencing significant skill shortage, or to open access to certain roles to greater numbers from a particular gender; certain backgrounds and so on.
  • Additionally, state financial support for tertiary education can make it easier, or harder, to pursue university study; to do so as a distance student rather than on-campus; to study particular disciplines and to study at a particular institution.

It is crucial to note that no study or career decision that your child makes need be for life.  Indeed, they may find themselves doing a job that has yet to be invented!  Also, most graduates will have a number of jobs over their working life and some will change career direction as well as role and employer.

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