Talking about Majors & Careers

Parent Guide

The Career Development and Placement Center provides resources and assistance to students in all majors…from freshman year through graduation and beyond.

There are no strict rules on which phase of career development your son or daughter should be in during a specific semester at the University.  We can generalize that a first-year student should be engaging in some self-assessment activities to recognize his or her interests, skills and values and begin to match them with possible careers and that a senior should have a well-developed resume and be conducting a job search or applying to graduate school.  However, it also makes sense for a senior to be doing self-assessment testing to focus career goals or for a first-year student to be attending a job search techniques workshop to begin a search for a more meaningful summer job after the first year.   What is most important is that students go through each of the four steps of career planning and that they begin the process early on in their college years…while there is still time to explore different majors, engage in experiential learning experiences, and gather the information on themselves and on careers that they'll need to make informed decisions.

The Four Steps of Career Development

“Conversation starters” you can use to communicate with and encourage your son or daughter

Step 1: Self-Assessment

Conversation starters:

  • What do you consider your biggest accomplishment?
  • How would you describe the ideal job for you?
  • What are you good at doing?
  • What did you like best/least about your past jobs or volunteer experiences?

Step 2: Research & Exploration (including choosing a major)

Conversation starters:

  • Let's think about people we know in the fields that interest you (such as neighbors or relatives) so you can set up informational interviews with them.
  • How would some of your career options affect other aspects of your life such as family, hobbies and volunteer work?
  • What are some of the advantages of career choices you have considered? Disadvantages?
  • Have you talked with your academic advisor and a counselor in the Career Center about choosing a career? What was their advice?

How parents can help with choosing a major:

  • Listen to your son or daughter's thoughts.
  • Encourage open discussion about what he or she hopes to accomplish by choosing a particular major, but try not to be judgmental.
  • Assure your son/daughter the decision is not irrevocable. The key is not to procrastinate about exploring the issues and gathering information to make an informed decision.
  • Ask which courses your son/daughter has enjoyed the most.

Step 3: Gaining Experience/Developing Marketable Skills

Conversation starters:

  • Do you have a resume?
  • Which campus activities do you think would interest you? Have you looked into joining them?
  • Which summer jobs or internships do you think might be available to someone with your interests or major? Have you checked with the Career Center about how to obtain them?

Step 4: Learning Job Seeking Skills/Applying to Graduate School

Conversation starters:

  • Are you planning to attend workshops and recruitment programs offered on campus at the Career Center? (If not, why not?) Have you worked on a detailed job search plan?
  • Do you have proper interviewing attire?
  • Which of your faculty or administrators do you think might be able to serve as references for full-time jobs or graduate school? How will you develop a relationship with them?
  • What preparation do you think you will need to do your best on graduate admissions tests?
  • Have you considered a back-up plan to graduate school?

Feel free to contact us at (203) 371-7975 or

Portions of this information were taken from The Parent's Crash Course in Career Planning, Marcia B. Harris & Sharon L. Jones, NTC Publishing Group, 1996.

For more information also see Career Coaching Your Kids: Guiding Your Child Through the Process of Career Discovery by David H. Montross.