After speaking to hundreds of parents about the struggles of their college students or grads to land a job, I know exactly how you feel.
I understand the worry about what the future holds for your children.
I understand the frustration of giving advice to a college-aged child, only to be ignored, or eyes rolled in return.
I understand the desire to be the parent of a successful, confident and financially independent graduate.
I understand because I am you.
My son is graduating this May as a member of the Class of 2021
My son is graduating college this May as a member of the Class of 2021.
Parents say to me, “Oh…your son is so lucky that his mom is the career expert. He must be all set.”
And I ask them, “Does your recent grad like to take your advice?” We both laugh and understand that it’s not that simple.
So, what did my son’s college to career journey look like?
Seven things that helped my son to discover a career path
1. Give enough rope
My son is a psychology major. As my husband and I were both business majors we were hesitant at first with this choice but we gave him the chance to figure it out. He is fascinated with how people think, make decisions and perform under pressure. He needed to understand the field more to see if it was a good fit for him.
2. Embrace the opportunities
My son was really excited to go to a Big 10 school for the sports, academics and the opportunity to meet many different kids. He got involved with a campus-wide charity, took on a leadership role with his fraternity and joined a club related to his major. These experiences gave him the chance to “work” with others, deal with difficult situations and practice leadership skills.
I did encourage him to find an internship as a freshman or sophomore. He was not happy about it. He said, “No one else is doing an internship this young. What could I possibly do?” I encouraged him to connect with psychologists in different disciplines to see if they needed help or support.
He found a psychology practice that needed college kids to help with their “therapy” mini-camp. He learned a lot about research, data analysis and pediatric therapy. I know internships are not always feasible but any chance a student can get to learn in the “real world” can help them make decisions about their future direction.
4. The struggle
My son had some less-than-ideal professors. They were hard to understand and often their class material needed to be self-taught. He struggled early on to figure out how to learn in this environment. But he started to advocate for himself and he learned how to access the TA (teacher assistant) and tutoring sessions. We did not swoop in and take care of it. He needed to figure it out.
5. Let things simmer
As the years progressed, he learned what he did not want to do and kept testing the waters of what else he might like. I kept encouraging him to network with professors, friends and campus leaders.
He became fascinated with the psychology of athletic performance and competition. This combined his love of sports and his desire to understand the mind.
He reached out to the head sport psychologist on campus to see if he could get involved in any way. This led him to an internship where he provided support to athletes focusing on optimizing their mental performance in competition. This internship solidified his passion.
6. So, what’s next?
He will apply to grad school to become a sport psychologist. He will most likely wait a year to give himself time to focus on the right programs and get some experience.
7. He does not yet have job
And that’s okay.
Just like the hundreds of grads we work with at Next Great Step, he will figure it out. When my son was 10 years old, he told me he was going to be in the NBA… well, he might just get there. Just not the way we thought.
Congratulations to the Class of 2021!