From the Desk of the Dean of Students
January 20, 2012
When asked what our goals are, we at St. Olaf often talk about “working to prepare students for lives of worth and service.” But we know we’re not the only ones who have been involved in that effort, as parents have been working on it for about 18 years before dropping their kids off on Manitou Heights.
Parents are a main source of inspiration, information, and motivation for the vocational interests and direction we see in our students, who are better connected to parents than earlier generations. These relationships are overwhelmingly positive and supportive, rather than the overused analogy of “helicopter parents” (or my personal favorite, lawnmower parents — louder and closer to the ground). It is no surprise, then, that parents play an influential role as mentors in the job-search process.
In a recent piece of research that St. Olaf students did for an upper-level sociology course, they reported that 85.4 percent of juniors and seniors were in contact with their parents at least once per week. Students most often noted that their parents helped them decide what kind of work to do (64.2 percent) and helped them complete a job application (28.3 percent). The least common types of parental involvement noted by students included parents contacting professors (0.4 percent), contacting a boss (1.1 percent), and attending an interview (1.5 percent) on their behalf.
Furthermore, the student researchers collected comments from their peers about what they expected parents’ roles to be as they went into the world of work. “Due to the importance of networking I think it would be dumb to not use my parents as resources,” one student remarked.
So it begs the question, “How can a parent be an effective career resource?”
I found my answer by typing that exact question into Google and found this recommended source from the National Career Development Association that is full of helpful information for anyone who is in a position to mentor a young person looking to find a calling in life.
More to the point, St. Olaf is encouraging you to participate in the Career Network for Oles. As President Anderson recently noted in an e-mail to you, this program is an easy and effective way for students to connect with alumni and parents. Here’s how it works: Students share information about themselves and parents and alumni respond with answers, connections, thoughts, and suggestions. The correspondence starts out via email, but often extends to phone conversations, meetings over coffee, and Skype dates. Your level of participation is up to you.
Truthfully, this might benefit students other than your own because if your house is like mine, your kids might listen to other parents more than to you! However, we are an interdependent community, and we count on each other to encourage and inspire each other. This is the St. Olaf way, and it has been like this for a long time. We simply are using the electronic tools of the day to accomplish it.
We look forward to seeing you in person, as well as online. As always, stay in touch . . .
Vice President and Dean of Students
St. Olaf College