Tips for Parents to Get Grads to Go From College to Career

Punxsutawney Phil may have predicted six more weeks of winter by seeing his shadow last week, but that won’t stop graduation season from arriving in just three months. Although unemployment is slowly ticking down, the job market is still highly competitive for new entrants. Last week, a USA Today poll found that 43% of those between aged 18 and 34 are worried about joblessness. And they aren’t alone: Parents are also nervous because their graduating seniors are leaving college with an expensive degree, massive debt and nowhere to go…except back home!

To find out what parents can do to give their college kid an extra edge in this tough market, I spoke with Lindsey Pollak, spokesperson for LinkedIn and author of the recently-released and revised Getting from College to Career: Your Essential Guide to Succeeding in the Real World.

Pollak identifies a number of things parents can do to help their kids, but cautions about getting too overtly involved. She stresses a parent’s role should be more focused on working behind the scenes and coaching their kids on making the right choices as opposed to leading the charge.

Work Behind the Scenes

Helicopter parents beware! We have all cringed at stories about parents showing up at interviews, or complaining to recruiters who didn’t hire their pride and joy.  Pollak advises parents not to call recruiters, attend job fairs or show up at interviews. One of the best ways to undermine your child’s chances is to highlight their lack of independence. The best way to support your new grad is to work behind the scenes.

A recent survey conducted by TweetMyJOBS found that Gen-Y are more reluctant to reach out to personal contacts than their older counterparts, yet job seekers are 20 times more likely to land a job through a referral. Pollak suggests that parents connect their kids to relevant personal and professional contacts via e-mail and LinkedIn and preferably not by phone. The idea is to help open doors by linking them to people interested in helping out. We all have connections, it’s a matter of talking to your kid and figuring out who you know that may best be of help to them in the job search. 

Introduce them to the Working World

Most college kids haven’t been exposed to the business world, and no matter the size of their workplace, the experience will be new. Pollak advises that parents do what they can to help expose their graduating students to the look, feel, and style of the corporate world.

To help put grads at ease for this transition, Pollak suggests parents provide ideas and gentle feedback on attire, particularly when it comes to business casual and formal work attire. She notes that most college kids haven’t had to shop for workplace attire, so any help would likely be welcomed.

Be There When they Fail

One of the big knocks on the Gen-Y crowd is their aversion to competition. There is no shortage of anecdotes about Gen-Y kids participating in sports and activities where nobody keeps score and everyone gets a trophy. Although this may be somewhat overstated, this generation does seem to have a different mindset when it comes to failure. This mindset, fostered by Boomer parents, has left many ill-equipped at dealing with the heavy doses of rejection that come with the job search.

This market is tough and first-time job seekers are going to hear more “nos” than “yes’” and it won’t be fun. Be there to help prop them up when they get discouraged, but don’t do the work for them. The key is to be positive and encourage them to get out there, learn their industry, make contacts, and market themselves to the right people. 

Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, PhD is a CEC certified executive coach trained in organizational psychology. Dr. Woody is author of The YOU Plan: A 5-step Guide to Taking Charge of Your Career in the New Economy and is the founder of Human Capital Integrated (HCI), a firm focused on management and leadership development. Dr. Woody also sits on the advisory board of the Florida International University Center for Leadership.Follow Dr. Woody on Twitter and Facebook