The job market for new college grads has never been more complicated. This is how parents can actually help.
The career marketplace for new graduates has never been more competitive, unstructured, and difficult to navigate.
For every appealing entry-level professional position in a given industry, there are dozens, often hundreds, and sometimes thousands of candidates. Johnson & Johnson receives more than 180,000 applications each year for the approximately 720 positions the company hires directly from colleges and universities.
MetLife receives an average of 150,000 applications each year for their approximately 2,500 entry-level positions. And the competition is just as fierce at the leading financial services companies, consulting firms, and not-for-profits (like the American Red Cross), much less the world’s most competitive tech firms, such as Facebook and Google.
If your son or daughter recently graduated from college or is about to graduate and become a new entrant in the job market, he or she is almost certainly consumed by such questions as how to stand out and break through the sea of other applicants to land an interview; how to obtain the right introductions; how to know which questions to ask; and how to know which jobs to even pursue in the first place.
The nature of today’s career paths have changed, as have the tools used for job searching. Your son or daughter will want a good-paying job, of course, hopefully in an interesting field with the potential for career advancement.
But today’s graduates and the thousands of millennials I’ve talked to who are starting out in the working world today also want to work for an organization that aligns with their values and makes them proud to be there. They want a job that offers the opportunity to achieve, over time, the lifestyle they want to live— and ultimately to be able to live in the city or region they are attracted to and to afford the things a good paying job leads to, such as a house, a car, travel and entertainment, and the ability to raise a family.
But today’s employees also want to be respected. Your daughter wants a chance to show what she can do, to be challenged, and to have the opportunity to grow in her job or organization. And more than any previous generations, she wants to work on something meaningful, to make a difference. Along with this, she wants the flexibility and freedom to pursue her interests outside of work. She realizes that she is likely to work for many different employers during her career. But she welcomes the opportunity to join an established company that offers security and training programs that help her to grow her skills and advance her career.
As a Parent, What Can You Do?
The truth is, it’s difficult to advise your own kids about how to get a good job or tell them how careers really work. You can expect that your advice will be heavily discounted. For one thing, much has changed since you were a new grad or in your twenties. And your kids may not realize that you appreciate that.
Your son or daughter has probably already gotten a fair amount of advice on the steps to take in finding a job from a career-counseling office or friends, including the basics of setting up a LinkedIn profile, writing a résumé, and interviewing strategies. He or she may have been taught how to create a target list that organizes his or her desired employers into a spreadsheet, with contacts, follow-ups, and next steps.
These are just a few of the things The Career Playbook and good career counselors can teach. But your student or graduate is likely looking to you for something else. You won’t be helpful by—or appreciated for—attempting to organize his or her job search, nagging, or serving up unhelpful platitudes like “follow your passion.”
Instead, what you can do is help your graduate think through the necessary trade-offs that will need to be made and offer genuine encouragement to soldier forth despite the frequent rejections and setbacks that are par for the course. I urge you to resist the all-too-natural tendency to relate their process back to your own experience. Even though it is well-intentioned, it comes across as “Here’s how I did it, so that’s how you should do it, too.” Instead, let your daughter or son know that a career path will not and should not be expected to be a straight line, and that’s okay.
What You Need to Know to Help Your Grad with His or Her Career
In addition to your love and support, you can help by: 1) talking with your son or daughter about how careers work, 2) helping him or her understand the trade-offs involved in choosing one job or career over another, and 3) discussing the fundamental importance of relationships in a career, whatever the industry or sector.
At the same time, you can be an effective parent by keeping in mind that building a career is an essential part of growing as an adult and as an individual. Obviously, your grad will want to make decisions on his or her own.
But he or she will benefit from a playbook to understand the options as he or she goes down this uncharted path, from you acting as a caring parent by supporting the choices made and allowing the space to make occasional mistakes. The details and specifics of developing and managing his or her career will likely best be served by advisers and mentors, industry veterans, friends, books, and online resources. With this knowledge and The Career Playbook in hand, your grad should be prepared for the start of a long and fulfilling career.
This post has been adapted from Jim Citrin’s latest book, “The Parents Guide to the Career Playbook: What Every Parent of a Graduate or Graduating Student Needs to Know,” available now.
Contact John Assunto for all of your Education Recruiting needs! Johna@worldbridgepartners.com or 860-387-0503