May is graduation season, and for parents of college-age children, this can be a stressful time if their newly graduated children have not yet landed their first job. As a recruiter, I’ve encountered my share of helicopter parents. Some real-life examples include:
- the parent who attended a career fair on behalf of the child;
- the parent who accompanied the child to a job interview;
- and the parent who called me to inquire about the child’s status in the hiring process.
Please don’t do any of the above for your children. Your children should take the lead on their own job search. Over-involvement by the parent raises a red flag that your child lacks initiative and self-sufficiency.
This doesn’t mean you need to be completely hands-off, however. Job search is stressful, and your children, being younger and newer to the job market, will have less experience navigating the ins and outs. By all means, be there to provide support! Here are seven ways parents can help their newly graduated children land their first full-time job:
Be upfront about financial support, if any
Will you help with student loan payments? Will you let your child move back home and will you charge rent? Will you subsidize living expenses elsewhere? For any help you offer, how long will it last?
Job search requires planning, so your child needs to know what timelines s/he is under to find something. Job search also requires urgency, so if your child realizes how much (or how little) help s/he is getting, this might be the push s/he needs to work harder. At the same time, job search requires confidence and patience, so if you are able to help, this might provide the supportive foundation s/he needs to launch a thoughtful search. There are many ways to handle financial support, and this is between you and your child, but being upfront about it will let your child know what support and constraints s/he has and can plan accordingly.
Share your benefits guide
Even if you can’t offer any financial support, you can still be helpful with financial knowledge. I teach a salary negotiation class to undergraduate students, and many students are not familiar with what an offer looks like and what benefits they can expect. If you work at a company that has a Benefits Guide (ask your HR contact if you’re not sure), share it with your child and explain what the different items mean.
Knowing the different types of paid time off (e.g., vacation days, personal days, sick time, holidays), what different medical plans include, how retirement plans work and different ways they can be structured are just some examples of concepts your child probably never learned in school but needs to know. Knowing the different company offerings will give your child more levers s/he can negotiate for, as well as more confidence to negotiate overall. As a bonus, teaching your child all the facets of your company benefits is a good review for you too!
Run a credit check
Some companies include a credit check, along with a background check of references and key items on a resume. Your child may never have checked his or her credit report before, so you want to walk them through how to get a free report and how to check for errors, or worse, identity theft.
If you do not check your own credit, you should be doing that regularly. You can pull one free report each year from each of three main credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax and Transunion – at AnnualCreditReport.com. I put reminders on my calendar to check one of the bureaus every four months. This way, I see my credit report regularly and can catch errors or identity theft before too much time has gone by, I see all three bureau reports each year, and by staggering the requests, I get each report for free.
Job search requires a lot of communication material – resume, online profile, cover letters, back-and-forth to schedule interviews. Offer to proofread for grammar and typos – after a while, all the paperwork might cause some careless mistakes to sneak by. If you have a marketing or HR background or strong writing skills in general, make suggestions on how to describe a past role or summarize multiple internships into a concise cover letter. If it has been a while since you have looked for a job, and you aren’t sure of the right formats or protocols for job search material, don’t guess based on what worked before – your tips may be out of date and hurt more than help. Instead, encourage your child to consult his or her school career services office.
Help with introductions
Your network is probably larger and stronger than your child’s by virtue of more years in the workforce and more diversity of experiences. Help your child get started with networking by making introductions to your contacts. An obvious place to start is with people you know that are in your child’s area of interest. However, your friendliest, most supportive contacts might be the best place to start if your child is inexperienced with meeting people live – at the office, for lunch, etc.
Remember that any referral you make, especially a personal favor like introducing a family member, reflects on you Don’t refer your child if s/he is not going to interact in a professionally mature manner with your contacts. This can backfire on your own relationships. Start with your strongest connections so you can test in a low-stakes situation how your child fares.
Role play a networking meeting, interview or negotiation
You can help your child prepare for networking meetings (whether your contacts or from your child’s own initiative) by role-playing with them. Practice the handshake, listen to how your child introduces himself or herself, and brainstorm questions to ask during these exploratory meetings. If you have hired before, practice interview questions – tell me about yourself, what is your biggest accomplishment, why are you interested in [area of choice]. Finally, you can even practice negotiation scenarios. Even a basic question like, “What salary are you looking for?” can throw off a new job seeker. Give your child an outlet to try out the different phrases and descriptions s/he might be replaying in her head – we don’t speak the same way we think, so there is no substitute for live practice.
Get out of the way
Your child may not want your help. Perhaps, role-playing with you doesn’t feel helpful because you make your child even more nervous, or s/he can’t imagine you as the boss or HR person instead of the parent. Maybe, s/he feels uncomfortable tapping your network or showing you a resume draft. If you want to help, offer to help, but don’t be surprised or offended if your offer is rebuffed.
As a career coach and a parent of a soon-to-be college graduate myself, I have to walk a fine line between jumping in because this is my area of expertise but also sitting back because it’s her career journey after all. I am also not going to be as objective with my own kid than I would be with a client – there’s a closeness there that I can’t just turn on and off. Knowing my own limitations, I had my co-founder coach my daughter – she would be supportive but still objective. I helped out with the one-off cover letter edit and with some introductions, but I outsourced the heavy lifting to a third party. You also want to decide how much and what type of help to offer. There is no one-size-fits-all, so talk to your child and come up with a customized plan that works for both of you.