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Career advice: How to Help, or Not!

May looms a long way off, but as a college prof I can attest that the undergraduates are already getting restless about their job prospects, and the grad students finishing in December are positively crazed.

What’s the role parents should play in a job search for their adult children? Some baby boomers strategize a full-scale assault on the work world for their children. Others yawn, “Been there, done that.  You’re on your own.”  Looking for a middle ground we chatted last week with two career experts–a millennial and a baby boomer—and asked how parents can be helpful but not overbearing.

Gen Y career guru Ryan Healy is the co-founder of   the Brazen Careerist,  a social network for young job seekers and professionals.  Mr. Healy wrote a piece a few years ago that caught our attention: “In Praise Of Helicopter Parents.”  He noted that parents could provide some help:

Obviously, at some point we millennials need to grow up and become adults, but a little guidance and occasional intervening in the first post-college job search will teach a twentysomething how to properly handle the next search, on his or her own.

So we asked him to expand on that idea:

What do parents need to know about the workplace and how it’s changed since they searched for their first job?

No one stays with the same company for their whole careers anymore so young adults have to view themselves as free agents. They can’t rely on a company to take care of them,  and that means thinking of themselves as entrepreneurs. 

What’s an example of entrepreneurial skills that parents can encourage?

Being involved in different clubs and organizations while in college gives them the experience of a leadership role, usually a shoestring budget, and also being able to interact with people. Also encouraging them to attend networking events and meeting people and then following up to establish their own networks.

Networking events are a good idea but many young adults would rather text than talk.

Urge them to muster up the courage to call someone and ask to meet for coffee or  just to talk. It’s okay if they’re nervous.  Most people like to give advice and like to talk about themselves and what they did to become successful.   

What’s the best career help parents can give adult children?

Find out what your kid is interested in and what makes them happy and then encourage them not to settle for anything less.  Use your connections to make introductions and then leave it to the kid to take it from there.

Career expert Sally Haver is a senior vice president  at  The Ayers Group/Career Partners International in N.Y.  She coaches both generations in their careers.

 How can parents help in the search for that entry-level job?

The best thing is find out how exactly the young adult would like parents to help them.  Let your children know you have connections but let them decide what they want you to do. Parents need to do ego suppression! Kids are spreading wings and often want to be autonomous and not depend on parents.

 Suppose you believe they are floundering and need advice but won’t come to you?

 No parent is a prophet in her own land. They might not listen to you but might very well listen to a friend or colleague giving the same advice.  So enlist their help.

 Sometimes adult children do want us to call on our associates.  What’s the best approach?

Be honest and diplomatic.   Tell your contact about your child, college and work experience and then ask, “Would you be comfortable at this time having a conversation with her, getting her resume and seeing about entry level job at your shop?” Remember some people have very full plates and really can’t take the time so you have to pick who you ask carefully, and be aware of their personal and/or job situation.

Let’s flip the situation and say you are asked to help and you can’t for any number of reasons.

Get in touch with your ability to say no or at least to be honest and say “I can’t do it right now” but perhaps in the future and give a time frame. Perhaps suggest another company to try and give suggestions for contacts.

 Some of us have children still in college who will be looking to use our connections down the road.

 So now you need to do favors for people now so you feel comfortable asking them in a few years!

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