Ask Amy: Should You Go Into the Family Business?

Dear Amy,

I’m a sophomore in college, and I’m starting to think about my career. My parents are encouraging me to join the family business. My dad is president of a well-known real estate company that deals primarily in commercial properties across our region. I certainly know a lot about the business (my mother is in sales), and two of my cousins are telling me that it’s fun to work there. However, I’m finding that my interests are more in psychology than in real estate. Any suggestions?



Dear Ainsley,

Many daughters who grew up in family businesses are now considering working there.  If you’re building your career in your family’s business, you’ll want to be sure that your career interests line up well with the products or services the business offers. Having a psychology background can be a huge asset in many businesses; certainly sales and management depend upon an understanding of behavior and the ability to handle a variety of interpersonal situations.  You may fit in quite well in the real estate business, but you might also decide that you can take your interests and work other places, too.

In any case, here are a few ideas for you to consider as you start to develop your interests and career choices:

1. Consider working somewhere else first. Many parents are clear that their children should work somewhere else before joining the family business, while others feel it’s not necessary. What is necessary is that you feel satisfied and fulfilled and make a contribution wherever you work.  Many daughters in family businesses develop their own career paths and ask for assignments that require learning new skills, developing new relationships, mastering technology, and responding openly to critical feedback.  Whether the path is there or you create your own, your career depends upon learning.  And right now, you’re in a great place to develop that capacity.

2. Invest in assessments of your talents, skills, and interests. There are a number of objective assessments you can take, and/or psychologists and coaches you can work with who can help you determine the kinds of roles and work environments that fit your particular profile.  The more you understand about yourself, the better.  I’m sure that taking psychology classes will help with that. The good news is that colleges are now very focused on helping students develop careers and find jobs and learn to manage their anxieties and stress.  My suggestion would be to take advantage of the services available to you, even if they lead you in a direction you did not anticipate.

3. Consider several options. Though you may not believe it now, you may end up with a series of great jobs and never follow a clear career path.  You may have a revolving door relationship with your family’s business-in a few years, out for awhile, and back again.  Or, you may be an owner one day, but never actually work there. While I’m sure this is all quite overwhelming, I hope you’ll fully enjoy your experiences now, and build the self-confidence that will help you make good choices going forward.

Amy Katz

Hope this helps!



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