Family and Social Influences


Understand How the People in Your Life Could be Enhancing or Distracting You from Experiencing a Life You Love

Family members, friends, and other key people in your life can be a strong influence on many of your career and life choices. Therefore, understanding who they are and how they influence you can be important to identifying their impact on your decisions. Creating a family tree, also known as a genogram, and charting primary social influences, known as a sociogram, can help you highlight significant connections and understand overall themes that may be present in how, why, or in what way they influence you. The genograms and sociograms can be used for a variety of situations including charting the history of medical issues, education, family dynamics, career paths, and more. Because we are focusing on experiencing a career you love, you are encouraged to use this process to focus on the careers or career-related influences in your life.

Chart Out Your Influences

To fully grasp the impact of your key influences, it is helpful to actually chart them out. Combining all of the family and social influencers into one chart can highlight their key relationships with you and also potential interactions between each of them. To create a diagram of your family and social influencers, you may simply start writing down the key people in your life. You may choose to use the standard genogram symbols to create a diagram of your family tree and social network or you might try a program such as that will help you map it out. It does not have to look professional to help you identify the people in your life and how they influence you.

Explore Your Influences in More Detail

First, it can be helpful to explore the relationships the way you see them. However, you may gain additional insights by talking to your family and friends to gain as much detail as you can about their primary and/or preferred career choices, education, influences, values, interests, personalities, skills, and other issues that you find relevant. For example, if your mom and several of her siblings were teachers, you may want to know what led them all to teaching, especially if you find yourself interested in teaching.

Some questions that you may consider for any of your influences may include:

  • Why did they choose that career field? Are they happy with their choice?
  • Was it the standard path they were expected to take or were they driven to it from an internal passion or interest?
  • If they pursued advanced education, was it expected of them or was it their own choice?
  • Who were the strongest influences in their career choices? How were they influenced?
  • What do they value most in their careers and lives and do their careers align with their values?
  • What interested them about the career, specializations, or populations they work with?
  • How are their personalities a match for that career field?
  • What skills came easy to them and what skills did they have to learn for that career?
  • Have they enjoyed their career? What have been the high or low points?

These questions can help you better understand the people who influence you and those who have influenced them. It can also be fun to get to know your key influences a bit better.

Discover Your Insights

Next, when your diagram is complete and you have gathered all the information that you believe is relevant, look for overall themes and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are some career fields in your family or social network more common than others?
  • If so, are you drawn to any of the common career fields?
  • Are those with certain careers happier with their career choice than others?
  • How do their career preferences affect you?
  • Have their choices led you toward or diverted you away from any particular career direction?
  • Does it help you to follow your ideal career path if you have seen others following theirs?
  • Are there positive & supportive influencers or negative & discouraging influences in your family and social network that affect your career decisions?
  • Is there pressure from some of your influences to go into a particular career direction or do you experience the freedom and support to do your own thing?
  • Are their values, interests, personalities, skill sets, and influences similar to or different from your own?
  • How do the values of your family, friends, society, culture, or religion affect your decisions?

Many times, our family and social influences mean well, but personal experiences, values, interests, and beliefs shade their perspective. For example, they may feel that it is best to discourage you from taking a low-paying job that you might love because they value financial security. What they do not realize is that you could actually become very successful at that career because it is aligned with your values, interests, personality, and skills. Research has shown that many people who follow their dreams have actually become more financially successful than those who followed just the money.

Therefore, it is important to not allow people in your life to discourage you from experiencing a career you love and the success that you deserve. Instead, you may consider spending more time with positive and supportive influencers or asking them for more guidance if they have chosen a career path that is more in alignment with yours.

Through charting your family and social influences, you may better understand why you made your choices and how influential certain people are in those choices. You may also understand how the people in your life could be encouraging you or distracting you from experiencing a career and life you love.

  • What insights did you gain?
  • Did understanding your family and social influences help you better understand how you have been influenced?
  • How was it helpful in identifying the most influential people in your life?
  • How are you taking action today to let go of the influence people have over you if it is presented in a negative and discouraging way?