“Help! I don’t think my child has made a good career choice” – Advice for parents

As a parent you know the skills and strengths of your child. Careers expert Julie Poppleton offers advice on ways to approach your child if they’ve made a career choice you don’t think is right for them.

Many parents know their children very well and know what their skills, strengths and qualities are. Sometimes we can have a good idea about what career aspirations could be a good match for our children.

It is your child’s ultimate decision, not yours.

Young people need to be able to have ownership of their own decisions.

Research has proven that young people are more likely to turn to their parents for careers advice than anyone else. It can be hard for you to try and be impartial, but it’s important for you to try. Even if your child wanted, for example, to be a Teacher – and you yourself are a Teacher – the routes and paths are now very different. Your child could have a different learning style to you.

I have met with some parents, who have sadly – sometimes knowingly, or involuntarily – put their own aspirations onto their children. They have opinions of what careers they consider to be successful, respected and highly paid.

Before you give advice, question your assumptions as a parent

Consider why you think your child’s career aspiration is not right for them.

  • What is the rationale around your concerns?
  • What is important to your child about that aspiration?

Being informed is better than gut feelings

I would advise to really do your own research into their career aspirations.

This research will help you make sure you are fully informed and aware about the employment landscape today, and what your child’s ‘dream’ career involves, as well as routes in and what the career could lead to in time.

Sometimes a listening ear is more important than having all the answers

It can be hard for a parent to not want to be an immediate problem solver for theire child.

In my capacity as a Director of Careers, here are some examples of feedback I’ve heard from young people:

“Sometimes I just want my parents to listen to me and try not to solve everything.”’

“I want my parents’ advice but to not make the decisions for me.”

Don’t buy into common career myths and stereotypes

Coming back to running that risk of making assumptions, there is still a lot of myth and stereotyping around some careers, with examples including Engineering, Construction, Health and Social Care.

Here are some examples I have heard:

  • “Engineering is a dirty job where you would come home covered in oil” (not true – and you don’t always need a degree for Engineering jobs either)
  • “Construction careers are only for boys” (not true – here are some construction career myths busted)
  • “Health and Social Care careers are poorly paid and they are more jobs for girls” (not true – caring is not just for girls and you can gain qualifications and promotions while you work)

Sometimes your child will learn best from experience and trying new things.

The final point I would make is, sometimes we have to experience things for ourselves to better understand if they are suitable for us or not.

I am myself in my 8th change of career and I have loved all of the jobs I have ever had. I have, however, needed to have had these personal experiences to truly understand what I am looking for from my career, which has then guided my next steps.

About Julie Poppleton

Julie Poppleton is a Director of Careers. She is a Level 7 Careers Leader and a Level 6 qualified Careers Practitioner. Her leadership responsibilities and expertise include Employer, Stakeholder and Community Partnership Engagement including parents and families. She sits on a Senior Leadership Team for a Secondary School in Staffordshire and her additional commitments include:
  • Vice Chair – Southern Skills Employers and Educators Board
  • Chair Staffordshire Careers Professionals Forum
  • Executive Board Member Tamworth & Lichfield District Chamber of Commerce
  • Member of the Staffordshire Education and Skills Strategic Group
  • Lead school for the Careers and Enterprise/Stoke and Staffs LEP Careers
  • Hub and member of the Steering Group Committee
  • Moderator for Inspired Teenager Plus
  • Careers peer awards reviewer for Careers and Enterprise Company


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