Any parent who believes that the college process is unendurably stressful, simply has not been through the job search process yet. Worrying about which college our kids would get into, pales by comparison to wondering if they will get a job, given the high rate of unemployment for under 25’s.
This week in Time, Randye Hoder discusses parents, young adults and the job search in Want to Help Your Kids Get a Job? Back Off. I stumbled upon her article as I was conducting an extensive online search of summer internships for one of my sons. Anyone who regularly reads Grown and Flown knows that I have shown little ability over the last two decades to discern the overparenting line. I usually find it when it is somewhere behind me.
So in reading Hoder’s article, I was getting my hands slapped from afar. Here she was telling me in her well researched/written way, that the best help I could give my son was to stop giving him help.
Nearly 40% of parents are involved in their child’s job search and experts are quick to point out the many ways we overstep our boundaries in helping college kids find internships and full-time employment. Parents, albeit a small number, are accompanying their kids to interviews, writing their kids’ resumes and cover letters and following up with thank-you notes after an interview, according to a survey done by Adecco.
Why is this happening? Hoder points to the fact that millennials face a challenging job market and are exceptionally close to their parents. Aaron Cooper, a clinical psychologist at Northwestern University, suggests that working parents may feel guilty that they did not have enough time with their kids earlier. He also notes that technology enables overinvolvement and that, as parents, we may also be overidentifying, “Their resume is a kind of extension of our resume.”
While parenting experts beat the “let your kids fail” drum, it is hard to stand by and watch them flounder as they take this first big step into adulthood. Is there is any help that parents can give without crossing over that difficult-to-locate line?
Most of the experts suggest that parents “be supportive.” But, this is just the kind of answer I hate. So, zooming in on some of the specifics, here are things parents might do to help their college student.
1. Give the kind of help you would offer a young colleague.
Parenting expert Hoder offers wise advice when parents are wondering how much is too much: think of your kid as a colleague. If what your kid is asking (or you are offering) is something you would do for any young person you mentor, you are probably okay.
2. Be there for advice.
Millennials are used to turning to their parents for assistance and advice and, in the Adecco survey, 18-24 year olds said they wished their parents had taught them the importance of networking and making connections (31 percent) how to make a good impression (25 percent), how to negotiate (23 percent) and have a strong work ethic (23 percent). Young adults, new to the working world, often need to be told things that are obvious to those who have years of work experience.
3. Proofread letters, emails and resumes.
This does NOT mean that parents write these important documents for their young adults, but rather that they weigh in on a near final draft. Any of us can make a typo, and while it won’t get you fired, it may cause a stumble at the starting gate. Inexperienced resume writers may not include enough, or the right, details and a few words from an experienced parent can result in a big improvement.
You have worked for years, your kid hasn’t. So when they are flailing around trying to focus on a career path, or ways to venture down their chosen path, bring real world examples to the discussion. By suggesting an array of possibilities, you might help them expand their job search and find success.
5. Interview prep.
Suggesting possible interview questions, conducting mock interviews and talking about appropriate attire are some of the things you would do with any mentee and your kid deserves no less.
Online research, does that cross the line? It is tempting (and I will say right now that I gave into this temptation) to search the internet for openings or to read about companies that might be of interest to your student. While this had the potential to go too far, forwarding job postings you happen to see or the name of a promising company that looks like it might be a good match for your student, can be helpful, as long as they do all the work from there.
Here is blurriest line between helping and hindering. Some parents are in a position to make introductions for their kids or set them up with interviews. Suggesting a name and passing along an email address is helpful if your kid does the rest. There is much grey area surrounding parental connection and it is best for parents to tread cautiously.
8. Reality Check.
Searching for a first job can be tricky in so many ways. Should a graduate seek the highest paying job, or one in her chosen field? How much of this first job is an investment in a longer career? How willing are parents to provide financial support or welcome a move back home? Hoder points out that talking through these questions, and others, with your student will help guide them in their career search. Hoder suggests families have this conversation early so that college kids enter the job process with clear expectations surrounding money and parental support.
A big part of the experience that parents can bring to bear is the reminder that it is a long career, that the average person stays in their job for 4.4 years and, for millennials, the estimate is half that. Early jobs are a learning process and a time to gain skills that can be leveraged in future years.
The good news is that with time, effort and a bit of parental advice, your kid will probably find a job. The bad news is the apartment search comes next.