Talking to parents about careers

How to answer your parent's questions and fears about your career.

My parents don't understand what I'm good at

Your parents might not understand your NCEA credits and how they show what skills you have and what you're good at. You could:

  • Explain NCEA – talk to them about your NCEA credits and how NCEA works.
  • Explain Vocational Pathways – show them how your vocational pathway points to industries you could work in.

Five students give advice on how to talk to your parents about careers (Video - 2.27 mins).

Shevaun: I always knew that I wanted to be a teacher and my Dad had other ideas or plans for me. He was concerned that becoming a teacher I wouldn’t make enough income for the type of life that I live or like to live. My advice to those who have pressures or expectations from others would be: think about whose future it is – it’s not theirs, it’s yours and if that’s what you want to do then do it.

Shannon: My parents were very supporting of what I wanted to do, which was I had no idea what I wanted to do. So my advice if your parents are pressuring you to study something you’re not interested in, is to gather information about what you want to study and pursue an argument with them and show them the benefits of your chosen career.

TC: People thought you’re just going to go study straight away after school. But then the likes of, for me I had rugby as well, to consider. That’s why I ended up staying around the Tasman region because I ended up getting an opportunity here so I had to consider what was going to make me happy.

Amy: Back in the day, probably around Year 10 or 11, I was really into my music, I still am, but my mother informed me that it probably would not get me a career.

Francis: So yeah, I applied to do music because it’s what I was passionate for. You’re always gonna get people asking you if you’ve got back-up plans and whatnot especially if you’re doing a course like studying music.

Amy: So I looked to other things. I originally looked at science and zoology. I wanted to be a surgeon at one point. I just kind of kept my options open from there.

Francis: If you’re feeling pretty pressured from perhaps your parents and you know if you want to go overseas and take a gap year and your parents think it’s not really that good of an idea cos they have a different opinion, I reckon you should just make a slideshow and just give them twenty good reasons why you want to do what you want to.

How to answer your parent's fears about your career

Here are suggestions to help you answer your parent's questions about your career choices.

"You couldn't do that job!"

Your parents may not think you have the right skills, abilities, gender or NCEA credits to do the career you want to do. You could:

  • Ask questions – why don't they think you have the right skills and abilities? What could you do to get these skills?
  • Check their understanding of skills – go to the job in our Jobs database and show them the list of skills needed.
  • Show them you have the skills – use the Skill Matcher and CareerQuest tools. If you have the right skills, these tools will suggest the career you're interested in.
  • Show your work experience log – they can see the skills your learned through work experience. 
  • Make an appointment – arrange for them to talk with you and your career adviser at school about your abilities.

"There's no future in that job!"

Your parents may not understand why you want to do a career that is hard to get into and has limited jobs, such as acting or forensic science. You could:

  • Show them your plan – make a plan of the steps you'll take to get a job in your career after training.
  • Show them your research – check out our Jobs Database and labour market information, and talk to people working in the industry.
  • Have another plan – it might take a while to get into your chosen career. Show your parents a list of other options if you don't get into that career quickly.

"Why don't you become a doctor or lawyer? Those are good jobs."

Your parents may think that success only comes from traditional, professional careers in medicine, law and accounting. You could:

  • Do our CareerQuest quiz and Skill Matcher tool – show them the results and how they suggest suitable careers for you.
  • Show them our Jobs database – they will see the salary, job outlook and progressions of the career you're interested in.
  • Show them our YouTube channel – they can watch successful people in a wide range of jobs talk about their careers.
  • Ask family friends for help – if you have family friends who are successful in a career you'd like, ask them to talk to your parents.

"I want you to do what I do."

Your parents may want you to join their business, office or factory, or do the same job as them. You could:

  • Acknowledge them – say you understand why they want you to have the same career path as them.
  • Explain – tell them why it is important to do your chosen career and what it means to you.
  • Make an appointment – arrange for them to talk with you and your career adviser at school.

"You should go to university"

Your parents may want you to go to university, but university may not lead to the career you want. You could:

  • Show them our Jobs database – they will see the training requirements for the career you want.
  • Alternative training options – tell them about other ways to train, such as apprenticeships and on-the-job training.
  • Use our Compare Study Options tool – show them the salary and job outlook from different study options.

Updated 24 Jan 2019