Up until about a year ago, I was a calm, rational parent. Then my son graduated college, and as he searched for his first job, I was transformed into a totally stressed out mom, overcome with anxiety about how my son would fare in his job hunt.
I hadn’t anticipated my radical metamorphosis, so I couldn’t plan for it. I felt helpless. Though I am in the business of coaching recent graduates, I had little ability to influence my son’s job search process.
My son barely left his room while I was home, and he artfully dodged my thinly veiled questions: “So what are you doing today?” and “Are you dressed for a meeting like that?” I desperately wanted to help him, to be involved, to show my support. But that was never quite communicated properly.
I started looking for any excuse to enter his room and start a conversation to learn how his search was developing. But I found myself chastising him for staying out too late, sleeping too late and simply not trying hard enough.
I now know the process wasn’t about me and my feelings. It was about him. The reason my son wasn’t communicating was because the process is so full of rejections and false starts, not because he doesn’t value my insights. Who wants to dwell on rejections and false starts?
My son, and all of his peers seeking their first jobs, needed to manage parental expectations. That’s easier said than done, but here are some essential tips:
Avoidance breeds anxiety
Job seekers, share your plans with your parents. When they ask what you did today, the least comforting response you can give is, “nothing.” The same goes for, “Leave me alone.” Try sitting down with your parents once a week and spelling out that week’s accomplishments, whom you’ve contacted and what resulted from those inquiries. If you keep clear, organized notes throughout the week, that will help focus the discussion on constructive topics, like potential contacts for you in your parents’ Rolodexes.
Job search 2.0
It’s absolutely appropriate to respectfully explain to your parents that new and social media have drastically altered job search methodologies. Chances are good that your parents haven’t hunted for a job in at least a decade, so your approach might be completely foreign to them. Explain to your parents that more hurdles lie between job seekers and face-to-face meetings in the era of social networking. If you take the time to fill them in, they are sure to understand.
Parents aren’t coaches
Let your parents know that they need to be parents, not career coaches. That said, there are many ways to involve them in your job hunt, including proofreading resumes and cover letters. One can never have too many pairs of eyes combing through important correspondences to flag typos or grammatical errors.
The most important thing to remember is that this process makes us all feel a little powerless.
Recent graduates, as they prepare to shoulder increased responsibilities, want to do everything on their own. Parents, meanwhile, rightfully believe their life experiences carry significant weight. The middle road can yield common ground. Your parents need to feel included in this process. Identify areas where they can add value. Then let them know you have the rest under control.
Lesley is president and founder of Priority Candidates, which prepares college students and recent graduates nationwide to get hired for their first jobs. Previously, Lesley spent more than 25 years in executive search, working with candidates from entry level to C-Suite executives in organizations ranging in size from small, family owned businesses to large international organizations. Her fundamental knowledge of what hiring manager’s look for is the core of what Priority Candidates does to prepare college students/recent grads to get hired now. An alumnus of Duke University who is based in New York City, Lesley has been featured in USA Today, ABC’s New York Viewpoint with Ken Rosato, ABC News with Art McFarland, The New York Times, NY Nightly News with NBC4’s Chuck Scarborough, eCampus News and John Tucker’s Small Business Report on Bloomberg Radio. Lesley always welcomes connections via LinkedIn, on Twitter or by email or phone, available on her website.