Information for Parents
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) by Parents
- My student is graduating but hasn't started a job search. What can I do?
- What does The Career Center offer for my student?
- We have many services for all stages of the career planning process and we hope your student will take advantage of them all.
An internship is a position, usually part-time, that is related to the student's academic goals and is pre-professional in nature. An internship provides practical experience which supplements academic learning. One of the benefits of completing an internship is that it allows a student to see if a career field is a good fit. It also provides an opportunity to develop skills. In addition, an internship allows the student to gain tangible experience to demonstrate that he/she has transferable skills and obtain career-related experiences to include on a resume. Employers usually prefer candidates with experience related to their field. Available internships are posted on HuskyJobs, our on-line job listing service.
Check out our students section on our site for more information.
- When should my student start using the Career Center?
- It is never too early to start thinking about career development. The earlier students start addressing career issues, the more successful they will be. We encourage students to start using our services as soon as they can. However, students develop at different rates and have unique career needs. Therefore, some students may not fully benefit from our services until later in their academic career. When students start expressing curiosity or concern about choosing a major or career, they are ready to start accessing our services. To learn about the services we recommend for students at different developmental levels, check out our handout Four Step Guide to Developing a Career Plan.
- What are the main tasks in the career planning process?
- Successful career planning involves five major tasks. The first task is learning about self. Students need to identify their interests, personality characteristics, skills, values, internal influences, and external influences. The second task is learning about options. Students need to learn about occupations, educational requirements, job performance requirements, job outlook, application processes, job openings, and networking. The third major task in the career planning process is preparing for action. Students need to write resumes and cover letters, practice their interviewing skills, etc. Fourth, students need to take action by participating in internships, obtaining employment, and seeking additional education. Decision-making is the heart of the career planning process. Students need to learn how to identify the decisions to be made, gather information, weigh the evidence, choose among alternatives, take action, and review their decisions.
- Does my student's college major determine his/her career?
- The relationship varies between college major and careers. For example, accountants typically need accounting degrees but professionals in other fields such as public service have degrees in many fields such as social welfare, political science, communications, etc. It is more important for students to focus on the skills developed through a course of study, rather than the title of their major course of study. All academic majors allow students to develop transferable skills that are desired by employers. The "magic formula" has to do with the unique combination of each student's skills and experiences. It is important for students to choose a major that is a good fit with their interests and skills because "hot" majors may not lead to success if they are not a good match.
- What skills and characteristics do employers look for?
- According to the annual employer survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, employers across a wide array of fields look for the following qualities when hiring new employees: communication skills, honesty, integrity, teamwork skills, motivation, initiative, work ethic, analytical skills, flexibility, adaptability, computer skills, organizational skills, attention to detail, leadership skills, self-confidence, friendly personality, tactfulness, politeness, grade point average of 3.0+, creativity, entrepreneurial skills, and sense of humor.
- What are the risks or benefits of majoring in an "obscure" or "impractical" field?
- The most important element in determining a choice of major should be the student's interest in and ability to do well in the field. In general, if students are interested and engaged in a subject, they will do better work and have a more rewarding experience at the UW. When students are excited about their studies, they communicate that enthusiasm to their professors (resulting in lifelong relationships and substantive recommendations), graduate schools (resulting in more abundant educational opportunities), and employers (resulting in a wider choice of job options during and after college). Often disciplines that seem "impractical" are highly attractive to a wide range of employers and graduate schools. Suffering through a "practical" discipline in which a student has no interest or ability to succeed makes the college experience and job search process much less rewarding and successful. A vibrant, strong record of achievement in an "impractical" discipline serves students far better than a lackluster record in a "practical" subject. Students can fill in the "practical" gaps through elective courses.
- My child is interested in "everything" and is having a difficult time choosing a major. What should he/she do?
- It is extremely common for students to have a broad range of interests and to feel overwhelmed about choosing "one thing" to study. We encourage students to explore a number of different fields, especially during their first few quarters. They can do this by taking introductory courses and speaking with faculty members in academic departments in which they have some interest, speaking with UW alumni in various careers through Career Connections and learning about the requirements associated with different majors by speaking with an undergraduate advisor in the Center for Undergraduate Advising, Diversity and Student Success. We also encourage students to seek assistance with their exploration process by attending the Discover Your Major workshop and/or meeting with a career counselor.
- Is a high GPA in the right major all my student needs for career success?
- No. Finding a satisfying job and developing a fulfilling career depends on more than good grades and the right major. Career-related experience during the college years is also very important because it allows students to assess the fit between their interests and skills and potential careers. Students can get career-related experience through internships and summer jobs, campus jobs, community service projects, involvement in student and professional organizations, research, and many additional places.
- How do employers look at students who have a lot of work experience but not much career-related experience?
- Employers ultimately want employees who are hard workers. A track record of hard work is impressive. Work experience specific to a student's intended career is desirable, but any work experience coupled with a demonstrated commitment to the intended career through coursework, projects, and other activities is also valuable. While there may be some fields where lack of related experience can be an obstacle to permanent employment, counselors in the Career Center can work with students to overcome these obstacles. Students may also be able to get credit for career-related experience through the Carlson Center.
- What is an internship?
- Internships are time-limited jobs that provide opportunities for students to learn something specific or new. Tasks associated with internships usually center around projects. Internships can last anywhere from a few months to a couple of years and they can take place during the academic year or during the summer. Internships can be paid or unpaid. Students can research more information on internships at the CCS website. Students can search for internship positions by using HuskyJobs.
- Does involvement in extracurricular activities help students get jobs after graduation?
- Some employers highly value students' involvement in activities outside of class. Participation in activities such as athletics, student government, student clubs, and performing arts allows students to work in teams, complete projects, develop leadership ability, and strengthen other skills they may not be able to develop in the classroom. In addition, these types of activities give students a chance to interact with various members of the UW and Puget Sound communities, which allows them to network. On the other hand, if students spread themselves too thin and start earning poor grades, they should probably try to focus on only one or two activities they find particularly rewarding so they can improve their academic work. On a similar note, employers tend to value substantial involvement in a few activities rather than superficial involvement in many activities.
- How can I best assist my student with his/her career development?
- Parents of university students often wonder what they can do to help their children with career-related concerns and questions. Parents have significant influence over the career development of adolescents and young adults so we appreciate your interest in learning how to use your influence in a positive way.
Researchers have studied the relationship between various family factors and career development for over 50 years. The most recent studies indicate that parents who want to enhance the career development of university students should try to do the following:
- Provide emotional support and communicate warmth
- Express confidence in students' abilities and offer encouragement
- Allow students to have and express their own opinions and desires
- Support students as they make their own decisions
- Maintain appropriate boundaries by not being too controlling or too detached
Whiston, S.C., & Keller, B.K. (2004). The influences of the family of origin on career development: A review and analysis. The Counseling Psychologist, 32, 493-568.
- Can you suggest any books with additional resources?
- Sure, here are just a couple:
- The Parent's Crash Course in Career Planning: Helping Your College Student Succeed by Marcia B. Harris and Sharon L. Jones (2007 Available here.)
- You're On Your Own (But I'm Here if You Need Me): Mentoring Your Child During the College Years by Marjorie Savage (2003 - First Edition)
- Almost Grown: Launching Your Child from High School to College by Patricia Pasik (1998 - Second Edition)