Starting a Career Conversation with Your Student

Ask questions

Begin conversations with your student regarding major or career decisions by asking open-ended questions. Asking exploratory questions will allow you to better understand your student’s interests and passions and begin a dialogue about these potential paths.  It is crucial for students to talk about themselves as they discover their strengths and interests in order to find paths that truly suit them. Use positive language to encourage an open and honest dialogue.

  • “Which of your classes do you enjoy the most?”
  • “In which of your extracurricular activities have you been the happiest?”
  • “What excites you about this area of study/internship?”
  • “Tell me about …?”

Listen with an open mind and resist the urge to do a lot of talking. Some of the information your student shares with you may be surprising or differ a great deal from your own experiences. Allow your student to freely share his/her thoughts, feelings, and perspective.  

Utilizing the Cohen Career Center

Encourage your student to set small, achievable goals throughout the exploration process. An important first goal in this process is visiting the William & Mary Cohen Career Center. Recommend visiting the Career Center; we serve students of all majors and interest areas! The Career Center can assist your student in career exploration as well as identification of internships and full-time jobs.  Often times students feel as though they need to have their goals and interests solidified before visiting the Career Center. We encourage students to begin visiting the Career Center early, beginning in their freshmen year, to begin exploring their interests. 

Encourage a holistic approach

Often times in the media we hear about the best jobs that pay the highest salary. Salary is an important consideration in the exploration process but does not guarantee career satisfaction. In your conversations with your student, recommend research of all aspects of an occupation: responsibilities, work/life balance, rewards, challenges, salary, and projected growth to allow your student to make well informed choices about major and career.  The Career Center has several resources and holds several events each semester to help students research and explore numerous careers and industries.   

How can you help?

As a caring family member, your first instinct is likely to want to give your student advice and tell him/her what to do. Resist this temptation and instead offer to assist your student.

  • “Would you like help with …?”
  •  “Is there anything I can do to help and support you?”