In these difficult economic times, most college parents are anxious about their students finding an appropriate internship or first job. As parents, we want to do all that we can to help support our student through the search process. Often, there may be a fine line between providing support and guidance and stepping too far across that line to inappropriate involvement.
Parents today are increasingly involved in all aspects of their children’s lives from birth through adulthood. As a generation, we are earning the title of “helicopter parent” and schools, colleges and employers are all recognizing that our involvement has great influence on our children and young adults. CERI, the Collegiate Employment Research Institute sponsored by Michigan State University recently surveyed 725 employers regarding parental involvement with job applicants and employees. Their findings hold up a mirror to us as parents of college students and recent graduates. Unfortunately, the majority of employers see parents as a negative “interference.”
Approximately 23% of employers see parents involved in the job search sometimes or very often. When involved, parental involvement breaks down in the following ways:
- 40% of parents are involved in obtaining information about a company
- 31% may submit a resume on behalf of their child
- 26% work at promoting their son or daughter for a particular position
- 17% attend career or job fairs either with or in place of their child
- 12% make interview arrangements for their child
- 9% may be involved in negotiating salary or benefits
- 4% attend an interview with their son or daughter
Clearly, as parents, we want to be involved in this important step for our sons and daughters. And appropriate involvement and support is important. However, mastering good job searching skills is important for your student since he will likely search for jobs multiple times throughout his career. So what, then should we do to help, and what might we want to avoid? Here are a few suggestions.
DO help in the following ways
- DO be your child’s mentor. A mentor is a wise and trusted counselor, adviser and supporter. Be there to guide, give advice, and provide a listening ear, but let your student do the work and take the lead.
- DO share leads about jobs, but then let your student act on those that are interesting to her.
- DO offer to proofread letters, resumes, etc.
- DO share your own resume with your student as a way to talk about what should or shouldn’t be included or how to word or frame experience.
- DO talk to your student about professional expectations, business demeanor, workplace behavior, professional dress.
- DO talk to your student about good interviewing skills, what kinds of questions to expect, how to prepare for follow-up questions, how to make small talk, how to prepare answers to likely questions.
- DO offer to run some mock or practice interviews with your student.
- DO talk to your student about realistic expectations in the job hunt and on a first job.
- DO help your student understand the realities of job searching as a full time endeavor. Remind him to pursue multiple possibilities, continue networking, and follow up on all leads.
- DO help your student define and clarify his goals and create a plan of action.
- DO help your student plan ahead and anticipate what needs to be done.
- DO continue to provide lots of support through a difficult, often discouraging, and long process. Simply being there, understanding, and supplying a sympathetic ear may be your most valuable contribution.
DON’T interfere in these ways
- DON’T write your student’s resume, cover letters, etc.
- DON’T contact a potential employer on your student’s behalf, even if you know the person. Let your student make contact.
- DON’T make phone calls on your student’s behalf. Let her make contact, set up interviews, gather information, etc.
- DON’T attend a career fair with or for your student. Talk to her about her experiences afterward, but let her do this on her own.
- DON’T attend an interview with your student. If he needs transportation, let him off and leave.
- DON’T contact a potential employer to negotiate a better deal for your student.
- DON’T forget that this is your student’s challenge and search. There are important and lasting life lessons to be learned from the process of job seeking – in addition to the ultimate goal of obtaining a position.
Parental involvement in our children’s lives through all stages of development is increasing and is, potentially, a very good thing. As with so many stages and ways of being involved, appropriate guidance, communication, and knowing when to step back is key. Watching your student seek his first job or internship can be a challenging but rewarding experience.