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Career Conversation Tips

Talking to your student about career planning.


We know you want your daughter or son to have a good future. We also know that parents are one of the biggest influences on students when they’re making decisions about their careers.

What you say and think matters and can have a lasting impact on their decision to choose (or not choose) a certain major or career. Here are some suggestions about how to have productive conversations with your son or daughter about their career journey.

Try Not to Predict the Future

The world of work that your children will experience is going to be different from what we know and almost nothing like the jobs our parents and grandparents had. They will have many opportunities to learn skills for the 21st century workplace while they study. Those opportunities include:

  • co-operative education

  • zone learning

  • internships

  • capstone projects

  • study abroad programs

While courses teach students information and skills to prepare them for their field of study, they need more to succeed than the subjects they are taught in their courses. Today’s employers are expecting graduates to have also gained work-related experiences during their time at university.

Encourage your student to consider on and off campus opportunities to gain exposure to a working environment, to start to put their academic studies into practice, and to try out areas of interest for their careers.

Remember That the World is Their Classroom

Your son or daughter needs skills that can apply in a variety of professions and sectors of the workforce. These ‘transferable skills’ can be learned in the traditional classroom, but they can also be learned outside of the classroom. This is called co-curricular learning because it supports and adds to what they’re learning in their classes (or curriculum) - and are just as critical to their future success. Co-curricular activities include, but are not limited to:

  • student goverment
  • volunteering
  • working on campus
  • clubs and societies
  • community service learning
Encourage Active Participation

One of the best ways you can help your child with their career development is to encourage their active participation in their education and the exploration of career paths. It is important that students start thinking about their career path early on - and first year is not too early! They don’t need to know what they want to do right away, but they should start exploring as soon as possible.  

Ways to encourage participation:

  • suggest they visit the Career Centre to see what we have to offer

  • encourage them to experience campus life activities

  • support them when they want to try something new

Students should find ways to:

  • meet new people,

  • learn new skills,

  • learn about the world around them, and

  • give back to their communities.

Active involvement in their degree programs and in co-curricular activities can help students:

  • see how their studies practically connect with their life after graduation,

  • discover their strengths and interests,

  • know what kind of work environment is best for them,

  • choose directions for their career path,

  • build their networks, and

  • connect with mentors.

All of these kinds of opportunities will introduce students to organizations and people that could hire them for summer jobs, internships, or jobs after graduation.

Ask Lots of Questions

Asking questions helps us reflect and think. This, in turn, helps us learn. We have prepared some questions to start a conversation with your daughter or son. They may not be able to give you “perfect” answers. They may need time to think. Just remember that there are no “right” or “wrong” answers to these questions. They are only meant to start the thinking process.

If they don’t answer you right away, give it some time and then ask again. Let them know that you want to help. Listen carefully to their answers. We don’t always have to give advice to be helpful. Sometimes, listening and caring is enough.

Remind Them We Are Here

The Ryerson Career Centre offers a wide variety of services and programs to help students learn the skills they need for a successful job search and we connect them with potential mentors and employers.

University students often don’t know or remember that they need to work on their career throughout all of their degree. It’s important that they begin this process early in their degree instead of putting off this planning until their final year of study. The good news is you can help them get a head start.

Remind your son or daughter that we are here to help. Get them thinking about their career path during each and every year of their degree(s). Career exploration can be broken down into smaller, more manageable tasks throughout their time at Ryerson.

One of our Faculty-specific Career Consultants - who bring expertise on the diverse career paths and industry trends related to each program of study - are here to talk to and advise students.

All of this will actually make their journey less stressful and much more effective.

For more information, read Questions for Career Conversations [PDF]