How to Handle Parent and Peer Pressure When Choosing Your Career Path

  • Last updated 28 Nov 2016


When parents and friends want the best for you, it can be frustrating, and sometimes pretty stressful, when what they think what you should do for your future doesn’t feel quite right.

In recent times, for example, university has been viewed as the default option. University equals career with serious prospects and good money. End of.

Though university is still a good option that could open up plenty of doors to you in your future career, whatever that may be, it’s just not true anymore to go with the idea that this is the only route to a successful career.

With government support and a number of the UK’s most well-known top employers on board, apprenticeships, school leaver programmes and sponsored degrees are also ways to go.

You now have a wide variety of options to consider offering different mixtures of training, salaries, work experience and professional qualifications – it’s only natural that some will appeal to you more than others!

Under pressure? Embrace the elephant

Unfortunately, not all teachers and parents are fully aware of the range of other valid options that exist these days. Parent and peer pressure into a certain career path is not uncommon. The concept of an apprenticeship or school leaver programme can be a bit of an elephant in the room to people who may still swear by the degree-equals-job theorem. And if you’re going to try and suggest that you would rather consider an alternative option to university, and go against the grain and desires of your parents as well as take a different path to the majority of your friends, then that’s no ordinary elephant you’re dealing with. As far as your imagination is concerned, it’s also riding around on a unicycle dressed as Batman and singing Let It Go from Frozen.

Read more:

Not going to university?

School leaver programmes vs. university

Apprenticeship vs. university

But there are ways of making sure that everyone finds a way to accept this eccentric elephant, ladies and gentlemen. It’s all about knowing your options inside out and presenting the straight-forward facts to your nearest and dearest. At the end of the day, school leaver programmes, apprenticeships, sponsored degrees and university are on level pegging now, and you need to help them understand that so that they can support you in the best ways possible.

What to research

Knowing as much as you can about each of your options will help you to be certain of the right option for you, and also allow you to get your facts straight when you talk to any parents or friends with reservations. Look into your top course choices at university, as well as any apprenticeships, school leaver programmes and sponsored degrees that you like the look of - check out our very own jobs board for this! 

Here’s the type of thing you should look into:

- How much would each option cost? What are tuition fees and living costs? Would you get a salary? What are your funding options?

- How is each programme of interest structured?

- If work experienced, what type of work and projects would you be taking on? What kind of support will you get?

- What qualification(s) would you receive at the end of each programme? What does this mean for your career prospects?

- Where could you take a career if you were to finish any of the prospective programmes?

- What work experience options will be available to you with each option?

- What kind of work-life balance will you have with each prospective option?

You can get in touch with employers and university departments directly to find out the answers to your queries. You’ll usually find the relevant contact details on their website on either careers or course pages.  

Your approach

Try to involve parents with some of your research into options – if you learn about what’s out there together then you won’t have to work as hard to explain what a particular programme is about and why it appeals to you.

You can also try to find case studies online as examples of school leavers who have gone on to the options you are considering as back up to the validity of the alternatives to university.

What’s more, on school leaver programmes, for instance, the work covered is often the same work that first year graduate employees handle when they start at the same company. So there’s certainly no slacking in the exposure you would get as a school leaver employee! It’s worth a mention to those who like to think you’d be there to make the coffees.

It can be difficult to take a different route to friends, but you shouldn’t be afraid to do so. The good eggs will understand that you’re doing what’s right for you!

Your decision

Remember, this is your decision, not anyone else’s. It’s really important that what you move onto after school is something you feel comfortable with. Parents and friends do have your best interests at heart, and you’ll need their support as much as possible as you embark on the next stage when you finish school. Be honest with them on how you feel about your options, and you’ll find a way to get it.


More articles like this

Recruiting school leavers? We can help