Working Wisdom

Helping Parents Help Their Kids Navigate Career

Land the Helicopter and Become a Mentor!

Parents as Their Kids’ Career Mentors

Mentor defined: an experienced and trusted advisor.
Parent defined: a person who brings up and cares for another.
Parent Career Mentor: A trusted advisor who supports their child’s career growth!


I have heard many terms over the years describing parenting styles. Alpha Mom, Helicopter Parent, Tiger mom, Snowplow Parent, and the list goes on. Bottom line, while my GenX cohort may have coined the term “latch key kid” because our parents were busy working and left us to ourselves, today parents are often accused of going the opposite route hovering, making sure obstacles are removed and controlling every step of the way.


Is there a happy medium between the hands-off approach and hovering path paver? I say yes and yes! As a professional career counselor, I have worked with thousands of adults over the years. What do I often hear them say, “When I was younger, I wish my parent(s) had been more of a mentor – especially around career.”


While our kids don’t need parents hovering over them – they could use the knowledge, wisdom and work experience you bring to guide and support their career development. As parents you have so much to share! We have seen our kids’ early skill and interest tendencies, personality development, childhood career dreams, their best environments and more! Our experience raising them and noticing them as human beings can help unlock the doors to their best career paths.


So, how do you become a career mentor to your kid? Try these three tips:


1. Watch the talk: Be mindful of what you say about your own work and career

You want your kid to have a fulfilling and successful career. Yet, you hate work? As parents we have a large stage and our kids have front row seats to our parenting show! Think about how you talk about your job, career, business, boss and co-workers. Around your kid(s), are you spouting off stuff like, “I hate my job!,” “I am never going to figure out what I want to do,” “I am going nowhere,” or “I can’t stand my boss – what a jerk” and more. Whether your kid adores you as the center of their young life or you have entered teenage stages where our presence can be “embarrassing,” know that they ARE paying attention, listening and aware of how you interact with your career. And these first impressions make lasting impressions. If all they hear is how much you can’t stand work – guess what? They often begin to develop negative associations with work before they are old enough to work! You can have rough moments and you don’t have to skip to the office to show how wonderful work is. But think about some more productive things to say when you are frustrated like, “I don’t like my job. But I am working on a way to like it more or I will consider looking for a place I am happier.” “My boss can frustrate me, but working with difficult personalities is part of life. I can make this work or find another job where the environment is a better fit.” Teach your kids that rough moments happen but you can handle them productively and still enjoy work.

2. Walk the talk: If you truly don’t like your work, change your situation.

While as parents, we really do want to help and support our kids, we need to first start with helping ourselves. I would rather see a parent with a healthy and happy connection to work influence their kids, than a parent miserable on the job paying thousands for a career coach to help their kid. It doesn’t mean walk away from a bad job and default on your bills. But if your situation is making you miserable, do something about it – change the situation or change your attitude about it. And doing that also shows your child that he or she can change bad situations and come out thriving. Once you become a parent, you no longer have the luxury to whine at will while your kid watches. Do something about it.

3. Create the talk: Expose your kids to experiences and interests and talk about it.

Exposing our kids to different experiences and environments and talking to them about it, is one of the best ways to help them understand their career interests at ANY age. You don’t even necessarily need to do anything different than you do now. If you take your kids to the museum, park, even an arcade, think about asking these questions after: What did you like best? What did you like least? What did you feel you did best today? Could you spend all day here? Why or why not? You don’t have to rapid fire these questions all in a row, but ask a few on the way home, one at home, get them to open-up about the experience and day – and you can do this at any age. Even my teenage son likes to know I am interested in him.

Next, take a few notes on what you hear, themes, patterns and give the experience a thumbs up or down based on your kids reaction. You will see the trends start to build. Important tip: don’t judge your kid’s answers or sway them because of your bias toward the activity.

This blog is devoted to many more topics, strategies and tips to help you career mentor your child. Remember, your new mantra - Mentor, not hover or disengage.





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