Choosing a career is such an important decision that impacts an individual’s entire future. Parents exercise more influence on the vocational and educational choices of their children than do any other adults. Today, I want to share with you my career selection journey and how my father became instrumental in my career path choice.
I had chosen to become a Child Psychologist. After finalizing all of my course work, I was ready to begin my internship at a Children’s Hospital in Caracas. My first patient was a 10-year-old boy who had enlargement of his heart. His prognosis was that he only had few months to live. As a psychologist, my role was to help this child and their parents to accept his terminal condition and imminent death. This was not easy for me to do as this was my very first patient.
When I met Jaime, he had labored breathing. He was constantly tired and lacked the motivation to engage with adults other than his parents. As the weeks passed, Jaime and I develop great rapport and trust. He was starting to engage with me. Our best session was one in which he smiled at me and painted the sun and some clouds as part of his art therapy. One morning, as I was waiting for Jaime, he didn’t show up. Soon I found out that he had a heart failure that had caused him sudden death. This loss impacted me tremendously. As a young woman with little experience dealing with death, I was emotionally crushed. As I recovered, I became insecure about my career choice. This is when my father spoke to me about seeking different options. He was a successful leader and had created a solid reputation in the finance field. He suggested I consider Industrial/Organizational Psychology as a career path. I followed his advice and started looking for opportunities in the organizational field. A few months later, I initiated my career in the Oil & Gas industry as a Learning & Development Advisor. A few years later, I ended coming to the USA to complete a Master’s in Organizational Psychology. After my graduation, I became an International Human Resources professional working for global organizations. I have loved my career and the opportunities to impact the development of leaders and employees in several countries. In 2017, my career evolved when I decided to leave my corporate path to become a professional Leadership and Career Coach. This work truly connects me with my core and my purpose to become a positive change agent for mid-career leaders who want to increase their impact and influence for better results and more engaged teams.
It is not always the case that parents can become great career advisors for their children. If you ask around, you will probably notice that parents can inadvertently exert a negative influence on their children’s vocation more times than not. As a Career Coach, I speak with mid-career professionals who pursued careers they did not like because they followed parental advice. A few months ago, I met a mid-career woman who became a lawyer to please her parents. She ended making a very successful career as a corporate litigator but she was miserably unhappy. When we started working together, she had reached her limit and was willing to leave a 20-year profitable career behind to do what she truly loved. She pivoted into nonprofit providing legal services to battered women to help them rebuild their lives.
Counselors have long been aware of the influence of parents on the career development and decisions of their children, for good or for bad. Parents share their expectations for their children’s education and career. They set examples for their children. They are communicators of values. Also, they have a huge impact when they offer their children opportunities to learn and develop. Unfortunately, they can not show their children what they still don’t know themselves.
There are opportunities to increase parent’s awareness about their level of influence when they have their own biases and misconceptions. Parent’s aspirations might be gender-specific. They can also be impacted by cultural and socioeconomic factors. In my case, I was the first woman in my family to leave the clan to obtain a Master’s degree abroad. I have no role models for this very risky decision and it was not easy, especially, when my daughter’s future was involved. By pursuing my dream, I became a trailblazer for other women in my family, including my two daughters.
Unfortunately, well-meaning parents, although motivated to facilitate their child’s career development, often lack the tools, direction, and information necessary to maximize the positive effects that they can have on their child’s career development.
Because I was in the Career Development field, I was able to support my daughters in making their own career decisions. One of the tools I used was the Birkman Method. The assessment provided them with awareness about their interests, styles, and strengths that helped them with important choices. They ended attending universities that suited them well and graduating for careers they still love.
Parental influence can be a great resource, such as my father was for me. If you are a parent seeking to become positive guidance, I offer you my suggestions and others that I found at https://www.qualifax.ie/index.php?option=com.
- Encourage your children to get as much education as possible.
- Help them discover their innate talents and skills.
- Celebrate their uniqueness and authenticity.
- Develop their knowledge of the changing world of work.
- Teach them decision-making skills.
- Value gender equity and cultural diversity.
- Become aware of career resources/ education and training opportunities.
- Observe the effects of work experience.
- Seek professional assistance from an experienced vocational counselor.
We make career choices that have a significant impact on our lives for years to come. Sometimes we make great choices, sometimes we don’t. Parents have a significant impact on those career choices. As a coach, I interact with professionals who feel trapped in careers they don’t like and are seeking to reinvent themselves after investing decades of mastering and advancing in their fields. If you are in a similar situation, I tell you that never it is too late to find your true calling, even if it is half a lifetime later.
As I reflect upon my career journey, I realize that I have chosen a great career that is ideal for me. Father’s Day is a great opportunity for me to honor my father for being my best career advisor.