'Ohana means "family," in Hawaiian; however, it encompasses much more than the members of an immediate family. At Chaminade University of Honolulu, we strive to educate our students in family spirit, meaning that we hold them in high regard while supporting them throughout their development.
As a member of your student’s ‘ohana, you may find key points below to guide you as your student develops in their career.
Choosing a career is a process students need to go through—and they go through the stages of this process at different speeds:
- Assessing skills, interests, and abilities (an important first step to choosing an appropriate career);
- Exploring majors and career options;
- Trying out possible career options; and
- Conducting a job or graduate school search; and
- Securing a position or admission to a program.
You can assist and support your undergraduate student in each of these stages. But what can—or should—you do? Here's a career planning timetable you might use.
Careers 101 – for 'ohana of first-year undergraduate students
During their first year or so of college, students will be assessing their skills, interests, and abilities. They will do this through the courses they take, involvement in campus activities, discussions with their friends, faculty and staff and by being exposed to and trying out different ideas and experiences.
Most students enter college with limited knowledge of the vast array of courses and majors available to them. When they delve into studies that are new to them, even those who entered with a plan may be drawn to different options. This is an exciting time for students.
What you can do to help:
- Support your student’s exploration of new areas of study and interests. This, after all, is what education is all about.
- Affirm the skill and ability he or she has consistently demonstrated. Sometimes students overlook these and need to be reminded.
- Talk about the courses and activities he or she is enjoying. Students discover new things about themselves throughout the college experience. Your willingness to listen and be a sounding board will keep you in the loop.
- Don't panic if your student is excited about majoring in something like English, history, or art. These can be excellent choices, particularly if they are a good match for a student's interests and skills.
- Support your son or daughter's responsible involvement in campus activities but urge this to be balanced with maintaining achievement in the classroom.
- Urge your student to seek assistance at Career Services, where students can take assessments and meet with specialists to help define their skills, interests, and abilities.
Careers 201 – for 'ohana of second-year undergraduate students
Generally, a student begins to explore majors and career options more seriously during the second year of college. Many colleges and universities require that new students take a broad range of subjects to promote this exploration.
What you can do to help:
- Don't insist upon a decision about a major or possible career choice immediately. If you sense that your student’s indecision is a barrier to positive progress, urge that he or she seeks assistance from Career Services. Students often have difficulty making a "final" choice because they fear they may close off options and make a wrong choice.
- Suggest that your student talk with faculty and mentors about potential choices.
- Direct your student to family, friends, or colleagues who are in fields in which he or she has an interest. Having an "informational interview" with people in the field can be extremely helpful at this stage.
Careers 301 – for 'ohana of transfer students or “mid-career” students
During the sophomore year and throughout the junior year, it is important for students to experiment with possible career options. In addition to work, students can participate in honors societies, internships, research projects, service learning and volunteer experiences both on campus and in the local community. This is a critical time for your support and understanding.
What you can do to help:
- Encourage your student to use the resources available at the campus career center. Experts there can assist your student in preparing a good resume and finding opportunities to test career choices. Most career centers are in direct contact with employers.
- Tell your student that you understand the importance of gaining exposure to and experience in his or her field of career interest. Broadening experience through involvement outside the classroom is a valuable use of time.
- Students that apply to graduate or professional school will need to seek the help of a trusted mentor. Encourage them to build a positive relationship with their faculty. They may also conduct an independent study or other type of coursework that will engage them in their field.
- Internships or summer experiences may be non-paying. Also, a good opportunity may be in a distant location. Discuss your financial expectations with your student before a commitment is made.
- Don't conduct the internship or summer job search for your student. It's a great help to provide networking contacts or names of people who may be helpful; however, making the contact and speaking for your student deprives him or her of an important learning experience—and may make a poor impression on the future employer.
Careers 401 – for 'ohana of graduating seniors
In their senior year, students will organize and conduct a job or graduate school searches. This is also a time when students are heavily involved in more advanced courses and often have more responsible roles in campus and/or volunteer activities. Balancing these important pursuits and setting priorities is a constant challenge for seniors. You may be anxious for this young adult to make a decision—and yet, he or she may be moving toward closure more slowly than you would wish.
What you can do to help:
- Refer him or her to the campus career center throughout senior year in preparation for the job search or graduate school application. Offerings may include:
- Workshops and individual help with resume, cover letter and personal statements, mock interviewing, and other job-search skills,
- Individual and group career advising,
- Job-search resources, and
- Career Fairs
- Don't nag your student about not having a job yet, which may have the reverse effect. Instead, strive for open communication about where your student is in their career search process.
- Offer to assist by sharing information you may have found about your student’s target career field and/or job listings that may be of interest; however, understand that at this time, students may not want parental help.
- Don't call potential employers, graduate programs or the career office to intervene for your student. Contact with recruiters is the candidate's responsibility—and it also builds their credibility and level of skill.
- Be prepared to support your student through the ups and downs of the job and graduate school search, which may include learning to deal with rejection. Your student may need reassurance that for every door that closes, another opens.
The college years are a time of exploration, experimentation, and learning on many levels for students and their 'ohana. Some student challenges may seem more positive than others, but all contribute to the educational outcomes of the college or university experience.
Throughout these years, students are developing a "record of achievement" that will be evaluated by employers and graduate schools as they move beyond college. There are several pieces of this record:
- Academic achievement. The grade point average (GPA) is one factor considered by competitive employers and graduate schools. It is one of the few tangible indications of a student's ability to learn and perform effectively, at least in the academic environment. Therefore, students need to do as well as possible in the classroom, especially in courses in their field of study.
- Responsible work or educational experience. In today's competitive market, many recruiters seek students who have related internship, summer, research, or part-time job or volunteer experiences. In fact, employers often look to their own such programs as primary sources for their new hires. These experiences are particularly critical for liberal arts students whose majors may not appear to be directly related to their areas of career interest.
- Responsible involvement outside the classroom. Extracurricular activities provide the opportunity for students to gain many valuable and career-related skills, such as the ability to work effectively with others in a team environment; leadership; planning and organizational skills; and priority-setting and time management. These are an important part of the package of skills employers seek in their new hires.
Best of luck to you in navigating the challenging waters for 'ohana of a college or university student.
Adapated from an original article by Sally Kearsley. Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, copyright holder. www.naceweb.org.