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Managing the Expectations Your Friends and Family Put on Your Career

Rachel Serwetz
Rachel Serwetz
March 21, 2022
Managing the Influence & Expectations of Your Friends and Family as it Relates to Your Career Decisions

It makes sense that we turn to friends and family for career advice, but too often we rely on their opinions even when we know that what is best for us is something entirely different than what they want for us. The below is a list of key considerations you can reflect on to figure out how to politely manage your loved ones’ support and opinions as it relates to your life and your career decisions.

  • Know that YOU are the one who will be living and breathing your work everyday, not them.
  • Know that they want the best for you, but they may not always know the best way for you to get there. If you are showing up to your career in a way that you’re reaching your potential, in a job that aligns with you and excites you, that is what they want for you! Especially when they are around you — they want to feel your energy and happiness, but that doesn’t mean they are an expert in how to pursue career exploration, job search, upskilling, etc. Refer to coaches, mentors, or experts who are knowledgeable in a way that can effectively support your career decisions. Would you take financial advice from someone who wasn’t properly trained?
  • Decide who to leverage and how much. Leverage others to the extent that you value their relevant experience or past decision making skills and know that this is separate from how much you love them. You can love them deeply and decide to not ask or listen to their career advice. Reflect on whether they are a positive source of influence such as information or motivation and if so, keep them on your radar for support, otherwise, you can love them without gleaning career advice from them.
  • Know that your upbringing has created subconscious ways of operating and believing that will affect how you approach your career decisions. This is an important topic to talk to a career coach about so that you can redefine what you think is reasonable to expect from yourself and decide how you want to make career decisions. Did your family want you to pursue a certain path based on their reasoning, and not yours? Did they expect you to always go in with a goal in mind, rather than getting comfortable exploring open-ended research and reflection? You may not even yet be aware of how your current approaches were derived or how they are affecting your decisions, so consider exploring this conversation with a coach.
  • Know that you don’t need to make any career decisions until you feel confident. Don’t rush into a decision because of anyone’s influence but your own. Rather, take the time you need to learn more, reflect more, and gain perspective and mentorship until you feel 100% certain that your decision feels aligned. If you’re not certain, do more learning and reflection to get your questions and hesitations answered.
  • Decide and practice how you want to manage the conversation. This all depends on what career goal you’re pursuing at the time, whether you’re clarifying your direction, job searching, debating school, or something else. Come up with a phrase that you are comfortable with so that you can show up to social events with confidence. You decide how much you share.
  • Surprise yourself with how freeing it is to show up honestly. It’s okay to say things like, “I’m not sure! I’m actually researching a few career options right now with my coach.” or “I appreciate you asking! I’m still navigating a bunch of things but I’ll reach out to you when I have an update or a clear way that I know you can be of help to me. I really appreciate your support!” Also, having a coach in your corner can make it more comfortable to show up to these conversations so that you feel confident sharing that you have a process, tools, and guidance, and can revisit the conversation with this loved one when you’re ready to know what to ask of them.
  • Know that we often think of our loved ones as career coaches, but career coaches are real people and we’re here with tools, frameworks, and support so that you can hear yourself think, assess your options, and come to your own decisions. Consider leveraging a mentor or coach who keeps the focus on your best interest only.

Answer these questions so you can re-set your own definitions, approaches, and career direction in accordance with your own values:

  • What do they want from me? How do they want me to approach my search?
  • What do I want from me? How do I want to approach my search?
  • How should I feel when I make a career decision or next step?
  • What is reasonable to expect of myself as I make career decisions?
  • What do I want out of your career?
  • What do I deserve?
  • What support do I need?
  • What else do I need to be asking myself?
Managing the Expectations Your Friends and Family Put on Your Career

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Rachel Serwetz’ early professional experience was at Goldman Sachs in Operations and at Bridgewater Associates in HR. From there, she was trained as a coach at NYU and became a certified coach through the International Coach Federation. After this, she worked in HR Research at Aon Hewitt and attained her Technology MBA at NYU Stern. Throughout her career, she has helped hundreds of professionals with career exploration and for the past 4.5+ years she has been building her company, WOKEN, which is an online career exploration platform to coach professionals through the process of clarifying their ideal job and career path. She is also an Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at Binghamton University and has served as a Career Coach through the Flatiron School, Columbia University, WeWork, and Project Activate.

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