How To Talk To Your Family About Career Choices

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Kitchen Table

This is a kitchen table, not a battleground. You can have respectful conversations here.

In my business, I often encounter clients who want a certain career no matter what it pays—but their family is not on board.

These are bright, young college graduates ready to take the world by storm. They’ve got big ideas to start a company. They have their heart set on working for a nonprofit. Or, they are just incredibly passionate about a specific career path.

However, mom and dad pressure them to apply to law school or become a doctor. And, reluctantly, these grads do what their parents want.


This scenario can cause a lot of anxiety for students, as they weigh their majors, career options, and optimal happiness. You don’t want to end up miserable in your career and facing a crisis 10 years down the road.

So, if any of you are in this type of situation, I consider it my civic duty to help you avoid a career catastrophe. Here’s how to talk to your family about your desired career path.

Step 1: Set A Time To Talk And Listen To Each Other

In the heat of the moment, it can be hard for anyone to talk without getting emotional. Even worse, it’s difficult for anyone to hear what you’re trying to tell them!

Instead, set a time to sit with your family and discuss your career path. Mark it on the calendar, call a family meeting, send an email, or make dinner—just do whatever it takes to get everyone in the same place for some time.

Step 2: Acknowledge Your Family’s Point Of View

There are major generational differences when it comes to career views. For instance, thanks to the Internet, young professionals now are more interested in entrepreneurship. Their boomer parents didn’t have that option—they were told to climb a corporate ladder. This generational gap can make for different views on the same topic.

So, rather than railing against your parents for not understanding you, acknowledge what they are saying. Take the time to listen to their points; they will probably return the favor when you speak.

Also, keep in mind that your family is looking out for you. They want what’s best for you, so let them talk. If you respect them, they should respect you in return.

Step 3: Make A Valid Argument

While I’m all about people going after their passions, there’s a difference between doing it on a whim and being practical about it.

Your parents probably think you haven’t thought through your decisions enough. Prove to them you have by making a career plan for your desired path and sharing it with them. This will not only show that it is possible to do what you want, but it will also demonstrate some responsibility on your part—what they are probably most concerned with anyway.

Step 4: Do What You Want Anyway

There is a very famous quote from Confucius: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

While that may sound like a cliché, I can tell you how true it is thanks to the time I spent working in recruiting. I was one of those people who chose a career path they didn’t want because others influenced my decisions. Now, I’m doing what I want—and loving it. Don’t go into something you hate because you think the money and security will make up for the unhappiness (that won’t always be the case).

Remember, not everyone’s career looks the same. Plenty of people have made fun careers doing something they love. Don’t let statistics or your parents completely sway you—there’s more than one way to have a career and put a roof over your head.

Were your parents uncomfortable with your career choice? Let us know how you changed their minds.

(Photo: Liz West)

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