Parents and supporters

Student looking at laptop with two people beside her

Supporting you, supporting your student

The Centre for Career Development at the University of Waterloo is here to welcome and support your student on their career journey. Whether they've already decided on the career they want to pursue or are still considering their options, we have a range of resources that they can use as they explore their goals.

The Centre for Career Development offers access to a host of information, including:

  • web-based resources on occupations and career decision making including our CareerHub, which contains comprehensive information and advice on career planning and work search.
  • individual appointments and workshops on topics such as career exploration and decision making, job search, résumé writing, interview skills and further education planning.
  • a variety of assessment tools.

How to support your student through career planning

Individual students follow different paths to choose their careers. Some come to university already knowing what they want to do, while many may be unsure of what they might want to pursue. Of those who have already decided, plenty will change their minds – sometimes more than once. Choosing a major and career can be overwhelming for students.

Recent surveys of Canadian university students reveal that University of Waterloo students consistently name their parents and supporters as having the highest influence in their career decision-making process. You can do a lot to support your student(s) as they encounter new options and information, rethink existing plans and consider all the “what ifs...” that arise during this exciting time. Here are some things you can do to help.

I want my student to be successful. How much career advice should I give them?

Although it is helpful to occasionally ask about career plans, too much guidance can backfire. Support your student’s exploration of new areas of study and interests. Don't assume that if your student chooses to major in a subject area that you consider to be "impractical" that they will never get a job. Taking classes in any subject can actually help students to sharpen critical skills that employers are seeking such as strong written and oral communication skills; problem-solving skills; the ability to critically analyze and synthesize information; and research skills.

Realize that picking a major does not mean picking a “forever career “. In today’s world, it is predicted that workers will change jobs 9-13 times, and careers 3-4 times. Plans will develop and change. It's okay to change majors—and careers.

Sometimes a supporter may pressure their student to pursue a career that fits their own interests and values. If they are successful in steering their student in this direction, the student may end up pursuing a career that does not match their own values or interests. A lack of interest and passion in one’s career can make life unpleasant. A person who lacks passion for their work will typically not achieve the same level of success in their field as someone who has chosen that field based on their own interests and values.

One of the most valuable things you can do to help your student with career planning is to listen: be open to their ideas, try to help them find information, and be nonjudgmental. Empower them to make their own, well-informed decisions.

How can I support my student as they explore their career options?

During their first year and beyond, it is important for students to assess their interests, skills, values and personal attributes. They will achieve this through success (or failure) in courses they take; work experiences; involvement in activities; discussions with friends, professors and faculty advisors; and generally being exposed to different ideas and trying out a variety of experiences.

Encourage your student to engage in these activities and to reflect upon them. What is enjoyable? What is challenging? Communicate and affirm what you consider to be their areas of skill and ability – often students overlook these and benefit from being reminded by someone who knows them well. It is helpful to check in with your student at various times throughout their first year by asking them what their favourite courses are and how they are doing.

The importance of volunteer work and extracurricular activities cannot be overemphasized. These activities, both on and off-campus, can be immensely helpful to your student’s growing awareness of their strengths and weaknesses, and likes and dislikes – all of which are critical to the career decision-making process. These activities are also viewed positively by employers.

What can I do to encourage my student to learn about the world of work?

Employers are interested not only in a degree: they look for relevant skills and experience as well. If your student is not in a co-op program, encourage them to seek paid (and unpaid) work opportunities that will provide a range of skills and experiences.

While directly relevant experience is best, a variety of work experiences may help your student to develop skills important to their future career. These might include communication, organizational, interpersonal, teamwork, and customer service skills, to name a few. A student who plans early in their university career to integrate relevant work experience will have a definite advantage.

Is there anyone my student can turn to at the University for career advice?

Students can meet with a career advisor at any point in their university career. Many first-year students believe that career help is more relevant to older students and will therefore delay seeking career advice until their third or fourth year. However, the sooner they become familiar with the services, resources, and programs available, the better prepared they will be to make wise career decisions.

The Centre for Career Development offers:

  • a resource library on a wide range of occupations and job search topics
  • web-based resources on occupations and career decision making including our CareerHub, which contains comprehensive information and advice on career planning and work search
  • individual appointments and workshops on topics such as career exploration and decision making, job search, interview skills, professional/graduate school planning and applications, résumé and cover letter writing
  • a variety of assessment tools

The university years are a time of exploration, experimentation, and learning on many levels for students and their supporters. Some challenges may seem more positive than others, but all contribute to the educational outcomes of the university experience. We wish you success as you navigate the challenging – and rewarding – experience of supporting a university student.