Our son’s college graduation was a proud and happy occasion for my husband and me, as we celebrated his earning of a 4-year degree from our alma mater. He worked hard for that degree, scratching and clawing his way through several setbacks and learning some valuable lessons along the way. The future was looking pretty bright. He had just been through three rounds of interviews and a battery of tests at the company he had done an internship with and was waiting for the implied offer to arrive at any minute.
Unfortunately, a few days after graduation, the hiring manager called to let him know that the company was put on a hiring freeze for the next several months, and wished him good luck in his job search. He was absolutely devastated. Ever since his internship, he had focused on this company and this job with laser beam precision, deciding he could only find professional happiness there. He was so close to obtaining this “dream job,” he could taste it.
Suddenly, he was thrust from the highs of graduation into a pit of despair and a state of limbo—and, frankly, so were we.
My son lived at home for his last semester of college, so that continued. But we knew that what that looked like would have to change. We had a lot to figure out. And while of course this was our son’s battle to fight and his life to figure out, there was still a lot on our shoulders as parents.
First, my husband and I needed to learn to refrain from the “told-you-so’s,” like, “Told you not to put all your eggs in one basket,” “Told you to attend that job fair last semester,” “Told you you should have gone to the career center more than once and applied to more jobs,” etc. It’s hard. Because there were SO MANY things we wish he would have done differently, so many ways he did not heed our advice. And suddenly it felt like we were all paying the price.
So, we had to walk the thin line between keeping our mouths shut about some of those things, while also being there for him, with words of wisdom, encouragement, and practical advice, as long as he was open to hearing it. We knew it could be easy to slide into depression about the situation, so we wanted to help him stay upbeat and positive.
We also had some practical questions to answer:
Questions for College Grads Moving Home While They Look For Work
Should he get a minimum wage job while searching for a full-time gig— or should he focus 100 percent on a full-time job search?
Who would even hire him for a part-time job knowing he was a college graduate seeking full-time employment?
Should we include him in our spring break family vacation plans?
How would we convince him that just because the hiring freeze may be lifted in a few months he should not be sitting back and waiting for that to happen?
What would the new “house rules” be for his living arrangements as an unemployed adult living in our home?
I even found myself wrestling with my own philosophical questions. Why did his lack of a job feel like a parenting failure on my part? Was I a horrible person for experiencing the conflicting emotion of being a little bit happy that I don’t have to give him up and send him off into the world just yet? At what point would we have to employ the proverbial “tough love” to push him out of the nest?
Fortunately, as his friends and roommates all started moving on to the next phase of life, our son was extremely motivated to look for a “real” job. He read books like, “Getting from College to Career” by Lindsey Pollak; he learned how to effectively network via LinkedIn; and he utilized his university’s alumni career board and job sites like indeed.com to apply for more job openings than he could easily keep track of.
He fielded phone interviews and traveled to in-person interviews, narrowly avoided some scams, and suffered a couple of rejections, when, at last, just three months after graduation, he received an exciting job offer. So exciting, in fact, that when we asked him how he would feel if that “dream job” he had originally been holding out for opened up again in a month or two, he determined he was even more excited about this new opportunity.
Now we are getting ready to move him to a city two hours away. I would say it’s the happy ending we were hoping for, but of course we know this is not really an “ending.” It’s the beginning. As he builds his career, he’ll almost certainly experience highs and lows in the workplace. But he made it to this important new phase of adulthood, and—although I’m going to miss him like crazy—I couldn’t be happier or more proud of him.
Karen Walker is a freelance writer who has been raising two sons (ages 19 and 23) and a husband for over half of her life. She blogs about first-world problems at https://lifeinanutshell.blog/.