Careers Advisor

Don’t underestimate parental influence in career decisions

Never has there been more choice in post school options, occupations, pathways, courses and education providers.  Yet despite the vast array of options available, one in five students are considered ‘disengaged’ with school and post school pathways according to research conducted by YouthSense, a community service sponsored by dedicated to youth engagement. Year13’s first research paper, ‘After The ATAR: Understanding How Gen Z Transition into Further Education and Employment’ combines the results of four surveys into Australian high school students. In addition to disengagement:

  • Only 56% of apprentices complete their training
  • 1 in 3 students fail to complete their university degrees within 6 years
  • 1 in 5 students drop out in their first year of university
  • University graduates take on average 4.7 years to find full time work in their industry of study

The most concerning finding from the research was the overall lack of readiness to transition from school with 43% of Year 12 students having no idea what they want to do when they leave school.  This coupled with the statistics above makes for a potentially turbulent transition period for many young people.

Much has been written about the future of work for young people.  We know a career is no longer one job for life.  A career will include a lifetime of experiences, some chaotic in nature, and includes periods of learning, paid and unpaid employment, periods of unemployment, volunteer work and life roles.

In the past, there was a simple recipe to succeed in a career – choose a profession, acquire the knowledge and gradually become an expert over your working life to retire at some point in your 60s.

Career paths in the future will be less predictable, with workers needing to be more flexible, work collaboratively and also autonomously, acquire a transferable portfolio of skills, develop the knowledge and the confidence to navigate a career journey of experiences and use resilience to more forward when a preferred option does not follow a direct pathway.

Whilst much can be done by employers, educators and government to effectively engage young people to transition into the workforce, in a recent survey conducted by Year13, parents and carers were highlighted as being the primary influencer in providing Career guidance to their children. Other advice and influence coming from the internet 42.7%, friends 32%, career advisor 25.5%, older siblings 16.7% and social media 14.8%. 

If parents are the primary influencer and provider of career advice, how can you best assist and guide your daughters to transition from school successfully, and begin their career journey confidently?

Start conversations early and normalise change

Share your personal experiences of work and study and include the good, bad and ugly stories and don’t gloss over the ‘bumpy’ bits in your personal career journey. Hearing stories of career rejection and disappointment, failure, regrets and success are all invaluable to illustrate a career journey in its entirety and your resolve to continue, persevere or change direction. Widen the circle of influence with similar stories from other family members and people in your network.

A well-rounded view of all career options

A few years ago who would have imagined that a blogger might earn a six-figure income?

Be positive and open about your daughter’s ideas, choices, and their chances of finding a satisfying career path. Their ideas about the future may differ from yours and this can be challenging! Yet we know that a happy worker is a satisfied worker. 

Consider what she is good at, where her interests lie, what she enjoys doing, what is important to her and her individual skills, strengths and aspirations. Consider also her learning preference. It’s more important to know who they are than to know what they’ll be.

According to a national survey of 1010 Australians conducted by McCrindle Research, 79% of parents would prefer their children to go to university after school rather than take a VET pathway. The reason for this preference was a perception around job prospects. Currently it takes a university graduate 4.7 years to find full time work in their industry of study. In contrast, 78% of VET graduates gain employment immediately after completion to only 39% of 20-25-year-old university graduates. 

‘Perceptions are not reality’ – university completion rates are at a concerning low with one third of university students failing to complete their degrees within six years of enrolment and one in five students dropping out of their chosen course within the first year.

There are alternatives to a university pathway, ‘hands on’ practical learning is more relevant for some learners. Be flexible in your outlook to learning, it’s not necessarily about the course or university, it’s about the skills acquired along the journey.

If your ideas differ go on a career learning journey together. Attend Expos and Open Days, assist and facilitate some work experience – paid, unpaid, volunteer work, the more exposure to the world of work, the greater the learning, enquiry and understanding. 

Encourage and coach your daughter to ‘have a go’ – don’t fail to try!

Whilst most kids are asked questions like, “What was the best part of your day?” or, “What did you learn at school today?” at the family dinner table, Sara Blakely, founder of the billion-dollar hosiery and apparel company Spanx, had a different dinner time experience growing up.

“My dad used to ask my brother and me at the dinner table what we had failed at that week,” “I can remember coming home from school and saying, ‘Dad, I tried out for this and I was horrible!’ and he would high-five me and say, ‘Way to go!’ If I didn’t have something that I had failed at, he actually would be disappointed.”

This dinner table tradition allowed Blakely to see the value in failure. “My dad always encouraged me to fail, and because of this, he gave me the gift of retraining my thinking about failure,” she explained. “Failure for me became about not trying, instead of the outcome.”

Whilst failing and ‘having a go’ is no a guarantee for a billion-dollar business success story, at Loreto Normanhurst there are many opportunities both in and outside the classroom to be involved and develop skills in negotiating, commitment, collaboration, public speaking, communication, leading and problem solving. 

As parents it can be difficult to see our daughters ‘fail’ however a future worker will need to be resilient and have developed skills to reinvent themselves during the course of their career journey as they navigate the cycles of learning and failing. Normalise failure as an opportunity to grow and learn.

Todays 15 year olds will likely navigate seventeen changes in employment over at least five different careers. They need to be critical thinkers and problem solvers, be persistent and actively manage their own career, most importantly, have strong communications skills to work with and interact with people. By having input from parents who are informed; and hearing and gaining some real world experience from a balanced perspective, together we can support our young people to lay the foundations whilst at school to transition confidently and be successful in their work in the future.


Ms Carmel Donnan

Careers Advisor