I just finished reading the CNN article, How Helicopter Parents Can Ruin Kids’ Job Prospects. While it’s always an entertaining read to learn about a few parents whose desire to help their kids succeed is a bit misguided, I think the article misses an important opportunity to show how parents can help launch their kids’ careers without being overbearing, inappropriate, or just plain weird. Calling an employer to ask why your child didn’t get a job or promotion is wrong; but helping your child gain the right introductions to people who may be able to help them in their search is smart and also good parenting.
Most people land their jobs through their network. They reach out to others and leverage the relationships they have to gain new introductions that can bring them one step closer to a hiring manager. Most recent grads have limited networks, but their parents often have large ones. While it’s the child’s responsibility to land and keep the job, there is nothing wrong with a parent facilitating the process. Job search, anyone’s job search, takes a village. Why should the rules be any different for our kids?
I meet many frustrated parents who wanted their kids to “go it alone” during their college years and just get any job during the summer. And so the kids end up with summer jobs during their college years that lack relevance to their future career goals and limit their ability to build a strong network. After four years of jobs as camp counselors, lifeguards, and store clerks they have little to show on their resume other than a degree and possibly a strong GPA. But this isn’t enough. A better strategy would have been to leverage connections to help the student get meaningful internships to help shape the student’s experience and build a close circle of mentors and advocates. By building a strong pipeline of professionals while still in school, your child can increase the likelihood of securing meaningful employment upon graduation. The time to start building these relationships is during your child’s senior year of high school or freshman year of college, not after they graduate.
I’m not suggesting that unrelated jobs are meaningless, and they may even be necessary if you need your child to be more financially independent during his college years. As a matter of fact, I think that every college student should have at least one crappy job during college to teach responsibility, humility, and gratitude for all they have. But if they can work one of these jobs during the school year and concentrate on more strategic internships in the summer, they may have a leg up over their peers with no relevant work experience.
If you are going to spend $200K for your kid’s four year education, doesn’t it make sense to help your child put their new degree to good use? This isn’t helicopter parenting, it is simply parenting.
Teach your kids how to give and receive job search help early. It will facilitate a life-long comfort and acceptance of the importance of networking that will prove valuable throughout their careers.