Are Your Parents Still Controlling Your Career Choices?

Are Your Parents Influencing Your Career? We Are SourceIn the second of her guests posts for us on career success and finding the job of your dreams Laurel Donellan of shares how your parents view of work may be influencing your career choices and holding you back. Powerful stuff if you have never considered it. Or maybe you will disagree – I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

“No matter your age or position, your parents are probably still influencing your career path choices. As a career professional I see the impact of parenting and family work values on career choices for clients whether they are 14 or 64 years of age. The problem with parents being so influential is that their sometimes outdated paradigms about work may not consider happiness.

Whose Ideas Are Yours?

Creating future career happiness is up to you and before you can, you have to discern the differences between your own ideas on the role of work in your life from what your parents have taught you. Sometimes these are aligned but in most cases, there is a conflict. Here is an example that comes from a client who is working through this process with me:

What makes me happy?

“Work that is creative and has a lot of variety.”

What my parents taught me:

“Work is work and you have to be practical.”

Following his parent’s advice and ignoring his own intuition this client received a degree in accounting but found the work of doing other people’s taxes painful and tedious. By the time he arrived in my office, he was suffering from an array of stress related symptoms. After completing our program which included clarifying how his parents influenced his decisions and developing his own work attitudes he is on a new trajectory. He has begun an advanced degree in industrial design and plans to transition in to work creating recycled products. He is still working as an accountant to get through school but the work is less stressful now that he has a new found purpose.

How Your Parents Views Positively Support You

In this process he has also come to appreciate the work attitudes his parents taught him that will continue to positively serve him including:

“Be on time and do more than is expected.”

“Find a mentor at work that will show you the ropes.”

Three Questions To Ask Yourself

So as you develop your own awareness here are the three questions to consider:

1. What work attitudes did my parents teach me that no longer serve me?

2. What work attitudes did my parents teach me that I want to embrace in the future?

3. What are the new attitudes I want to develop myself for my future?

Answering these questions and developing your own authentic ideas will help you find and follow a career path that will bring you more happiness.

For The Parents:

I believe young people can grow up and have, not just a job, but a remarkable work life fuelled by talents, passions, and purpose. Unfortunately, often schools and parents are not offering the support needed to get young people on this track.  Here are a few tips to help you move your kids toward enjoyable and meaningful work:

1.Create space for dreams by being a model and being optimistic: 

Take steps to be proactive and satisfied  in your own career. If you are unhappy in this area of your life, make sure you introduce you children to adults who do love what they do.

2.Change the conversation to include answering the question, “What is your dream”: 

Try to have these conversations without fear or judgment.

3.Know that you do not know – ask questions and BE CURIOUS: 

Not even economic experts can predict the jobs of the future.

4.Customize the plan to fit the dreams, talents and purpose of your children:

Together with your child, create an education, activity and job plan that works for them, related to their interests, not yours.

5.Balance college prep with career prep: 

An understanding of career strategy and real work experience, preferably related to their interests, is key to developing future success.”

Has this blog post shown you something unseen? Taking control of our inner beliefs and channeling them effectively can make a huge difference to you career and personal goals. I’d love to hear your expereinces in the comments below. Or maybe, you think this is a load of old nonsense. I’d still love to hear what you think.

Laurel Donnellan
CEO and Founder, Bright Livelihoods

Laurel has 30 years of experience as a leader, educator and coach and has degrees from Cornell and Columbia. To learn more about the Bright Livelihoods community, go to To request a private half-hour coaching session, e-mail us at

 photo credit: latisha (herbmother) via photo pin cc