Andy Chan, career development guru of Wake Forest University suggests that parents should be their children’s executive coaches, “there primarily to listen, to encourage their clients to use their best judgment.”
When Cara, my only child went to high school, she had to make a decision whether to take the college route or the academic university route. Of course, like most parents, I wanted her to go the university route; but I held my tongue and made her decide for herself. She tested me by asking, “What if I decide that I want to be a plumber?” I gave her my consistent response: “You can be anything you want to be, even a plumber, because it’s your future at stake and not mine”.
My rule: Come to me for advice if you need it and I will tell you your options and possible consequences based on my knowledge and experience. However, you will make your own decision for your own future. I was consistent on that until she graduated in university last April, having finished a degree that, little did she know, I wanted for her to begin with.
It is a painful process of steering your child towards the path you want for her to begin with without explicitly telling her so (the key words being “not telling her” what to do). What worked for me was presenting as an option my “secret preference” in the best light possible and matching it with her strengths and interests.
Step 1: I recommended that she takes the MBTI-Strong Career Inventory package. It cost me over a C$100 to do this but the results showed exactly what I knew all along. I know her interests, inclinations, preferences inside and out. Of course, she’s my child! Any aware and mindful parent would know their children like the back of their hands. The difference: I did not tell her. A reliable, standardized test told her. I knew that if I told her, she would not believe me. Of course, I raised her to be a healthy skeptic.
Step 2: I allowed her to be indecisive. She took a general, multi-directional course in university to begin with. She initially pursued an honours double major degree in Psychology and Management. Her rationale: “This course provides me with a few options that I could pursue, whichever one proves to be most interesting to me.” After one year, she decided that Business was interesting and provided more opportunities. She discovered into her second year that there’s a lot of prestige in the HBA program of Ivey School of Business. She decided to apply into this highly competitive and expensive program. I was privately rejoicing because that’s what I wanted for her to begin with.
Step 3: I offered her a way out. When she experienced difficulty in the first year of her HBA program, I coached her on how to adjust her learning style into the program’s highly inductive approach. In spite of it, she seriously doubted herself and almost gave up. My advice: “Quit school for a while and clear your head if you need to. However, don’t punish yourself into finishing something that you feel is not suited for you.” Learning is supposed to be fun and fulfilling, not excruciating and painful. I challenged her to quit because I knew that knowing there’s an option would relieve her of the pressure to stay on course. She would see this path as what it really is – a choice.
Fortunately, she made the right choice. Before getting her diploma, she got a financially attractive and career expanding job offer from Cisco Systems. Her time and money invested into the Ivey program paid off. Now she has two options, develop a vertical career in business as an executive down the road, or pursue entrepreneurship and build her own business. Do I tell her which path to take henceforth? What do you think?
If you’re interested in using the MBTI-Strong Career Inventory for yourself or your child, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can give you a free coaching session to go with your tests.