Career Decisions – 3 Family Dynamic Issues

Making career decisions is never easy and especially when it involves and affects other people.  High school students are influenced by parents, extended family, friends, teachers and coaches, and media.  College students continue to be influenced by similar factors and by the growing need to become financially independent.  So what family dynamics influence decision making and how much should they weigh in on the final decision for a career path?

Issue #1 – Time Frame- Every individual manages decision making about a career choice with a different level of intensity and time frame for making their decision.  Within a family, there are no exceptions.  The dynamics can create great tension when the expectations of time frame for making a decision differ among the family members.  Parents get anxious when students appear to fail to get engaged in the process.  Students get frustrated and avoid parent confrontations when pressed too hard.  The gap can grow and communications get stressed.  To reduce the potential of a family melt down, understand the time frame needs of each person involved in the decision.

Issue #2 – Values – Recognizing and respecting the values of each person in the process can lead toward a smoother transition to a decision about a career path.  For some, career decisions and ideas about future success are made on the basis of monetary reward while others place greater value on helping others or protecting the environment.  Legacies within families may influence decisions to pursue medicine, law, education or entrepreneurship.  Each family approaches the process differently, but the stress is common and the need to communicate openly remains the same.

Issue #3 – Finances – Paying for college, a trade school or starting a business all require tremendous investments of time and money.  Expectations within families regarding who pays and how much can create a whole separate set of issues and communication breakdowns.  As a part of the on-going family discussions, talk openly about affordability, scholarships, work study programs and student loans.  Understand the expectations of each person involved in making the decisions.  While finances should not be one of the first decision making hurdles crossed when thinking about a career path and school applications, it should be part of the conversation along the way.  The cost of college tuition, trade school tuition, or starting a business impacts an entire family.

Ultimately, the career path chosen by an individual has to come down to their values, interests, abilities, skills and passions in life.  But the impact on others is far reaching within families and the dynamics in making that decision can create situations that feed effective decision making or paralyze the process.  According to Napoleon Bonaparte, “Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide.”

Where are you in your decision-making process?  What made the difference for you?  If you need help with the process or determining career direction, contact me.