A year ago, many recent college graduates were facing a very uncertain job future. The pandemic had virtually frozen hiring in many industries, leaving some graduates stuck in limbo waiting for the employment picture to brighten.
Fortunately, this is exactly what has happened over the course of the past year. After peaking at nearly 15% last April, the national unemployment rate has steadily dropped, falling to 5.4% in July. Among college graduates, the unemployment rate is just 4.0%.
Walking the Fine Line
These statistics are good news for recent college grads who are trying to start careers in their chosen fields. If you’re the parent of one of these young adults, you might be wondering how you can help your child get his or her first career job. Or an even better question: Should you be helping your child get a job?
This can be a fine line. While you obviously want to see your child build a successful professional career, you also have to remember that he or she is no longer a “child,” but an adult. To a certain degree, your child needs to start assuming responsibility for his or her own life — this includes finding that first professional job.
But this doesn’t mean you have to sit idly on the sidelines and just hope for the best. Here are a few ways you may be able to help without being too overbearing and still allow your child to take the lead in the job search:
- Encourage your child to get a jump start. Some new college grads want to take a few months off after graduation to kick back and relax a little bit before entering the “real world” of a professional career. The pandemic-induced hiring slowdown even offered an excuse for this kind of thinking.vBut if they’re not careful, a few months can stretch into a year … or longer. This is valuable time that could have been spent on a productive job search. Even with the employment picture brightening, it could take months to find the right first career job. Let your child know that landing that dream job could take longer than expected so the sooner he or she starts seriously looking, the better.
- Help your child take a strategic approach to the job search. When it comes to landing a first career job, quality tends to be more important than quantity. In other words, it’s usually better to narrow the search to a limited number of positions that closely match the graduate’s skills, qualifications and interests than to apply for a whole bunch of different jobs that aren’t tightly defined. Help your child identify his or her greatest strengths, critical skills and biggest interests from a career standpoint. This will enable him or her to zero in on the kinds of jobs that might be a good match with them.
- Share your professional network, if applicable. There’s an old saying that “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” that matters most when finding a professional job. Depending on your own experience and career, you might know other individuals in your professional network who could help out in your child’s job search. If so, let your child be the one to initiate the contact. For example, your child could start by sending out a LinkedIn connection request. This could be followed up with an email (or even better, a handwritten letter) stating that you (the parent) suggested he or she might be able to help in the search for a first professional job.
- Be supportive — but don’t go overboard. It might be tempting to want to write your child’s resumes or cover letters or even call potential employers on your child’s behalf, but this could do more harm than good. Instead, you can give your child pointers on resume and cover letter writing and perform mock interviews to help your child prepare for the real thing. Finally, offer support and encouragement behind the scenes. Remember that this may be a challenging time for your child emotionally as he or she faces the prospect of starting a lifelong career and supporting himself or herself financially. Your child might be feeling a lot of pressure to land just the right job — even more so if his or her friends are all finding career jobs but your child hasn’t yet.
Recapture the Excitement
Capture some of the excitement your recent college grad is feeling now by thinking back to when you landed your first professional job and how it paved the way for a successful career. Then follow these guidelines to provide the right amount of assistance to your child in his or her career job search.