Many people now move sideways in a company whilst continually developing skills and knowledge to stay employable. In this respect, what conscious and subconscious influences do you make as a parent in relation to your child’s career choice and development?
As the world of work is changing, short term contracts are becoming more common. Changing careers a number of times have to be considered. Flexibility, communication skills, interpersonal skills and professionalism are all important too.
There are strong links between career development and such factors as socioeconomic status, parents’ educational attainment and cultural background. However, there is a growing body of research related to the effects of family relationships and career success where close relationships provide experiences of security that promote exploration and risk taking.
Early experiences are a basis for developing career self-efficacy and interests, as well as career goals and choices throughout life. So, how can your parenting styles, family functioning and interaction influence career development?
The role of parenting styles
Majority of theorists agree that early childhood experiences play a role in shaping career behaviour. It follows that parent-child relationships influence personality orientations and the development of psychological needs.
Vocational interests and choices are some of the ways in which individuals try to satisfy those needs. The links between parenting styles and children achieving these needs are difficult to pinpoint but research evidence is emerging.
Parenting styles are broad patterns of child rearing practices, values and behaviours.
The authoritative style balances clear, high expectations with emotional support and recognition of children’s autonomy. Studies have associated this style with self-confidence, persistence, social competence, academic success and psychosocial development. Authoritative parents provide a warm family climate, set standards and promote independence, which result in more active career exploration on the part of children.
Although authoritarian parenting is associated with school success, demands to conform and fulfil parents’ expectations regarding education and careers can cause a poor fit between the individual and the chosen career. Children with uninvolved parents sometimes struggle because they do not pursue interests that involve places and persons outside the family as easily. This makes it more difficult for children to develop self-knowledge and differentiate their own career goals from their parents’ goals.
Family functioning and career development
A more holistic way to look at this topic is to discuss the roles of the family. Overall family functioning, a broader notion that includes parenting style, includes such factors as support and guidance, positive or negative environmental influences and family members’ interaction styles.
Family functioning has a greater influence on career development than either family structure (size, birth order, number of parents) or parents’ educational and occupational status.
Parental support and guidance can include specific career/educational suggestions or choices, as well as experiences that support career development. These can be family holidays, provision of resources such as musical instruments and books as well as modelling of paid and unpaid work roles.
On the other hand, lack of guidance and encouragement can lead to the inability to develop and pursue a specific career focus and can also take the form of disagreement, like when a parent pressures a child towards a particular career and may withdraw financial and emotional support for a career path they disagree with. For example, your child wants to study art and you want them to be a doctor.
Family functioning also includes reactions to stressful circumstances by a child. For instance, making hasty, unreflective career choices in an attempt to flee or survive the family environment. On the other hand, life events can encourage learning that can shape a career direction. So, both significant others and critical incidents are all important in career decision making.
Interactions between family members are a powerful influence on future success. Interactions can include positive behaviours such as showing support and interest, communicating openly, or negative behaviours such as controlling. Parents and siblings can share stories about work and model work behaviours to serve as a context for understanding the realities of work.
Going back to where we started out, connectedness facilitates risk taking and exploration, which are needed for identity formation, for a child to know themselves. Siblings can help or hinder this through support or competition/rivalry.
Furthermore, understanding early family experiences and relationships can help adults identify and deal with barriers to their career progress.
Supporting career development
You need to be a proactive parent who helps your child learn to be autonomous and successful in shaping their own lives. Values about work should be transmitted along with opportunities for children to be involved in decision making and conflict resolution through effective communication skills.
Of course, there are other influences to be considered such as gender, race, class decision making and the economy, poverty, lack of access to opportunities, which can help or hinder career development.
However, close family connections and strong role models can break down some of these barriers. In short, secure, comfortable relationships are critical in helping students take the risks necessary in exploring new settings and roles.
Career decision making is complex and there should be a shift where career workers, teachers and mentors should use narrative approaches to ensure the family system is fully utilised and work at helping individuals to become more proactive.
As a parent, you should support learning strategies that promote career readiness, such as encouraging your child to do their best, providing opportunities to encourage confidence and use formal and informal contacts for exploration of occupational choices.