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Time to land the helicopter?

Howard McWilliams

For parents of college seniors, spring brings “the best of times, the worst of times,” and depending on your viewpoint, those categories can overlap. On one hand, the close of the college years can fall into the “worst” category if you are sad to see that chapter end, or it can be a “best” if you’re thankful for the last tuition bills (or maybe both!). Adult children moving home can be a “best” if you enjoy their company or a “worst” if they come home clueless about a career.

No matter how you regard these events, college graduation required parents to make a change in mindset. After more than two decades of micromanaging our children’s lives, it’s time to let them take charge, espcially as they start their professional lives. That’s a shifting of gears that many parents find difficult to make, reports NPR in “Parents Hover in the Workplace.”

As adult children plunge into the job market, parents are not far behind, often working as their unpaid agents. A Michigan State University survey of more than 700 employers found that nearly a third of parents submitted résumés on their children’s behalf and one-quarter of parents called the potential employers to urge them to hire their offspring.

Margaret Fiester of the Society for Human Resource Management told NPR :

When it comes to parents acting as lobbyists, she’s heard it all — from parents calling to negotiate better salaries or vacation time for their kids to complaining when their child isn’t hired. “Surely you’ve overlooked these wonderful qualities that my child has,” Fiester says parents often tell her.

Not all companies look aghast at this interference. The car rental company Enterprise considers parents “influencers” and includes them in the process by sending recruiting materials and other information.

Where does a parent draw a line, especially in a tough economy? Of course there are myriad ways parents can help without being overbearing from proofreading a resume to buying an interview outfit. Certainly parents are “influencers,” helping an adult child make a decision on whether to take a certain job, especially if it’s not a career builder but simply a source of income. Parents also can provide names of contacts for adult children to follow up on with a phone call or email. But calling HR after an offer is made to ask for more vacation time? Most adult children would rather give up their cell phones for a week than have a parent meddle that way.

The NPR piece made us feel compassion for the HR professionals who must deal with these potential employees and their parents. The new hires alone are demanding enough as evidenced by a guest post on a blog for women HR professionals. The guest blogger wrote that there are two ways to regard the new candidate pool:

Either a) you have a bunch of delusional, texting, Facebooking employees who have unrealistic expectations that they will be CEO in 2 years and feel they are entitled to getting everything they want, or b) you have an emerging number of employees full or energy and enthusiasm who want to find new ways to break into the corporate world and make a difference.

Obviously the writer believes that most “millenials” fall into category “B” and went on to suggest several ways to make “onboarding,” aka the hiring process, a fun experience. One suggestion:

Things are being “game-ified” left and right in market today. People are even given “badges” for normal human sustaining activity like eating (ala FourSquare). If there is any way to spice up the on-boarding process with games, activities or some sort of tracking rewards, the level of engagement from millennials increases exponentially.

Our commiserations to the HR staff of companies everywhere; apparently the spring hiring season brings them too the best and worst of times.

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