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How to respond to unsolicited career advice from your parents, according to a Harvard-trained psychologist

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The top two aspirations parents have for their adult children are that their kids are financially independent and that they have jobs they enjoy, according to data from Pew Research Center

A parent's wish for their child to be professionally successful is understandable. It can also lead to some unsolicited advice. 

There are ways you can talk through career decisions with the people or person who raised you, without feeling compelled to do everything they suggest, says Thema Bryant, the president of the American Psychological Association.

"You can disagree without being disagreeable," she says. 

Bryant is also a professor of psychology at Pepperdine University and did her postdoctoral training at Harvard Medical Center's Victims of Violence Program.

Here's how she suggests handling three career-centered conversations that can quickly become frustrating:

If your parents think your job is beneath you

"I appreciate your confidence in me and your desire for me to have great things, but with the market we are in right now, this is the best of what is available. I'm going to work my skills here and I don't want to have to keep having a conversation about why I'm here." 

If your parents ask why you don't take their advice

"You have raised me to be a thoughtful person and I have thought about it. I know all the points you've made. I have not forgotten. You don't have to keep bringing it up. We have already discussed this. Going forward, I would like for you to just trust me."

If your parents won't stop bringing it up

"I'll know when it's time to leave and I don't want to keep having this conversation. It's not helpful for me. There is nothing new to say about it." 

Even the most well-intentioned parents can overstep when it comes to professional advice they give their adult children.

By showing you listened, but also naming that your career choices are up to you, you are respecting them but also honoring yourself. "We can affirm the person even with noting that this advice doesn't work for us," Bryant says. 

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