Advice from the Other Side: Goal-Setting and Family

Sarah Farkas shares advice on how to respond when you’re asked what you’ll be doing after college and more.

As the semester winds down, odds are you’re looking forward to spending some time with your family during intercession. While family time is wonderful and valuable, we often forget that coming home from college and filling our family in can be a bit stressful.

You may be faced with some hard-hitting questions such as: Have you figured out your major yet? How did Chem 101 go? What do you think you’ll do after college?

All of these questions can be stressful depending on where you are in your college journey, but that final, career-oriented question can be especially anxiety inducing if you’re not sure where you’re headed after college or if your family isn’t necessarily on the same page. Here are some tips to use when talking about goals with your family so that you all remain happy and stress-free:

Emphasize What You Know

You may not have any idea of what kind of career you want after college, you may not even have settled on a major yet. That’s okay! When confronted with the “where is this all going?” question, shift the emphasis to the courses that you loved taking this semester.

If Chem 101 actually turned out to be life-affirming for you, let your family know that. If you took a course in Art History that completely blew your mind, tell your family because at the very least they’ll be happy that you’re enjoying your very expensive education.

Talking with people who love you about what what’s working for you can open up a larger conversation about how you might parlay your passions into practical careers—somebody in your family might actually have helpful advice about this!

Deflect Negativity by Focusing on Skill Development

I once had to tell my family that not only was I going to major in Philosophy, I was hoping to go on to get my doctorate in Philosophy. For a nurse and a teacher, this was bewildering, and I can’t promise that your family won’t be a little bit confused by the goals that you’re setting for yourself.

What’s helpful in a situation where your family isn’t entirely on board with your choices is to avoid getting defensive (I can’t stress this enough) and focus on the skill development that pursuing this goal will bring.

My parents didn’t understand what kind of job I could land with a degree in philosophy, but by the end of our conversation they did understand that I was developing my critical thinking skills, learning how to debate, becoming a much better writer, and tackling big questions that are of concern to pretty much everybody.

This helped them further understand that I would be employable, regardless of whether I worked in Philosophy or not (I did, and now I don’t—it all worked out).

Talking with people who love you about what what’s working for you can open up a larger conversation about how you might parlay your passions into practical careers.

Your family loves you and, in a lot of cases, they just want to know that you’ll be able to get a job after college. By emphasizing what you love and what you’re learning, you can paint your goals in the most positive light as they develop, and this can go a long way to putting your family at ease.

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