Education: Hopewell Valley High School, Arthur R. Sypek Center
Occupation: Hair Stylist
Teenager Alyssa Coward knew what career she wanted to pursue by the time she was in elementary school. Her inspiration? Her mom Carrie, a hairdresser and stylist. “I always wanted to do the same thing she did,” says Alyssa, a recent graduate of Hopewell Valley Central High School in Hopewell Township.
Alyssa took vo-tech classes at Arthur R. Sypek Center in Pennington—the same place her mom studied when she was in high school—starting her junior year in preparation for the New Jersey State Board in Cosmetology & Hairstyling exam that she took in May 2011 to become a licensed cosmetologist. “I’ve learned how to curl people’s hair, the different ways of making people’s hair look good and how to color hair,” says Alyssa, who regularly tests her technique on Carrie. “My mom is good for answering questions and helping with things I don’t quite understand. If there’s something I’m doing wrong, she can show me a better way to do it.”
As you think about training and education for your career, some of you, like Alyssa, may be considering following in Mom’s or Dad’s footsteps. Perhaps you’ve always admired mom’s career as a lawyer or dad’s job as a teacher—or your parents own a family business that needs your expertise once you graduate from high school or college. Whatever the case, now’s the time to give some thought to the pros and cons of all-in-the-family career choices.
Domenick Celentano (the frozen pizza guys!) helps people understand the dynamics of family and business. Before becoming a consultant and a professor at Kean University in Union, he worked for his own family’s packaged food business, Celentano Bros. Here are Dom’s tips for following Mom and Dad into business:
- Use the experiences and knowledge of your parents as a great resource to learn. Learn things that you may not get from school or others in the business world. From that point on, focus on doing, creating and participating in your career in ways that tell the world you have credentials that are yours and not just an extension of your parents. And don’t compare yourself to them in a negative way! You are different people and will bring your own personality and identity to your career choice.
- Especially if you are going into a family business, build your personal brand. Network in your field of interest as early as possible so people get to know you. It’s great to use your parents as a foundation and then build upon that so you are viewed as having value in your profession as a result of your own knowledge, skills and accomplishments.
- When you follow a similar career path as your parent, you are in a safe zone because your parents can help you by relating their stories, experiences, mistakes and accomplishments in a non-judgmental way. Your parents will have your best interest at heart. Out there in the business world, too many people are out for themselves.
- Should you choose to go into business with your parents, work for another company for three to five years to give you perspective outside of your family. Avoid having the business frequently flow into the family part of your life. Having this happen frequently can destroy family relationships.
- It’s OK to change your mind about following your parent’s career path. Growing up means taking responsibility for your life. Let them know that their caring and nurturing help has made you realize a different path serves you much better.