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Role of Parents

The majority of Canadians continue to find their career path on their own, sans parents.


The Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling (CERIC) has released findings of a survey conducted by Environics Research Group asking Canadians about their job satisfaction, their perceptions about their workplaces and performance management, and the tools and resources they turn to when looking for a job or building a career. This project is a follow-up to a benchmark initiative completed in 2007 that asked similar questions. This article is an excerpt from the 2011 survey report.

To better understand the influence of parents on career development, the 2010 CERIC survey asked Canadians what kind of a role their parents have played in their career development and what parents should do to help shape their children’s career choices.

Canadians are quite divided on how they characterize their parents’ role in their careers. Half of Canadians have been lucky enough to have supportive parents, with one-third (33%) whose parents were wonderfully supportive and two in ten (19%) whose parents were supportive but did not know how to help. In contrast, just over four in ten (43%) Canadians report they were unable to draw on their parents’ expertise when finding a career because their parents did not get involved in their career development. Only five percent of Canadians had overbearing parents who would not let them pursue their own career goals.

Role of parents in career development (2007 and 2010)

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Q.19 Thinking about the role your parents played in your finding your job or career path, which one do you identify with the most. My parent(s) were…?

Perhaps reflecting the change in parenting styles often noted – sometimes disparagingly – by experts and educators, younger Canadians are more likely to say they have had supportive parents. More than four in ten (45%) Canadians under the age of 30 report having wonderfully supportive parents, compared to one-third (34%) of those between the ages of 30 and 49, and less than three in ten (27%) of those aged 50 and over.

Helicopter parents aside, those Canadians who have had supportive parents are more likely to maintain they are satisfied with their ability to meet their career goals. Furthermore, the data suggest it is not just the immediate benefit of parents, but the relationships they inspire, that also make a difference to Canadians’ ability to meet their career goals. Canadians with supportive parents are almost twice as likely as those whose parents were not involved (33% compared to 19%) to have had the benefit of a mentor to guide them through their careers, and this is consistent across age cohorts.

How parents can help. Many Canadians think that parents can help their children’s career development by providing them with a range of opportunities and experiences. The most important ways in which a parent can help define a child’s career aspirations include: encouraging them to learn from their experiences (by succeeding or failing) (56%), or by exposing children to a range of character-building experiences such as sports and hobbies (51%). Smaller but sizable proportions of Canadians advocate helping children develop career-related skills (39%), encouraging children to volunteer in a variety of places (32%), talking to children about career choices (31%) and exposing children to a variety of careers (28%). Only six percent of Canadians believe that linking a child with a career professional is one of the most important roles a parent can play in helping guide their children to a career. Notably, these results are consistent among Canadians with and without children.

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Q.20 Which three of the following roles do you think are the most important for parents to play in shaping a child’s career choice…?

Read the full report, “On-line survey on public perceptions about career development and the workplace”, on the CERIC website.

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