This is the time of year when I start to get emails and calls from parents who have kids graduating from college. They want tips on how to help their child land their first job. I usually get something like this:
My Jeremy is graduating in May and has no idea how to look for a job. I've told him to go to the career center at his school, but he says they were no help. When I suggest to him that he needs to start applying to jobs now, he gets upset with me and says he will deal with it when he graduates. What can I do to get his job search in gear?
I'm sure most of you are reading this and thinking this parent's first mistake is thinking it's their job to motivate the child to look for work. But honestly, it's a bit more complex than that. Studies show Millennials have the highest rate of career anxiety across any generation. Why? According to the research, Millennials spend more time studying compared to previous generations, have more competition in their career, and find it more difficult to achieve job satisfaction. It turns out, they aren't the lazy, entitled generation everyone makes them out to be.
Still, they're struggling to get their job searches in gear. So, let's take a look at some of the reasons why:
Kids Don't Major in "Career Development"
While college is about gaining knowledge in a concentrated area, I've yet to see a school with a "Career Development and Job Search" major. And even though almost all colleges have campus career development centers their students can visit for assistance, most kids don't leverage this resource properly. Why? In my experience, they're so busy with school, relationships, and the overall process of adulting, they can't imagine trying to look ahead to life after college. They say, "I'll cross that bridge when I get to it." Unfortunately, this procrastination leads to...
Too Much Choice, Not Enough Focus
When a student graduates, they hear, "You have so many options!" That sounds amazing to seasoned professionals (a.k.a. parents), who wish they could go back in time and make different career choices. But to a new grad, it's like going into an ice cream parlor that has 352 flavors and being told to pick one in 15 seconds or less. All the fun gets taken out of it. College graduates feel so much pressure these days to build an amazing career straight out of school. If they aren't setting the world on fire with their greatness, then they are convinced something is wrong with them. Meanwhile, they haven't even worked full-time in a professional setting. Which means, there's an entirely new learning curve for them to get through. With that in mind, here are the three tips I give parents of college grads each year:
Tip 1: Create Simple First-Year Goals
Make it clear to your child their first job out of school will not be their last. Every job is temporary. The first job out of school's main purpose is to help them get used to life after college. For example, most kids don't sit in a college classroom from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Just getting used to the time commitment can be a big adjustment for many new grads. Helping your child see their first job is going to teach them important skills like managing a boss's expectations, building relationships with co-workers, and learning workplace dos and don'ts will give them a chance to take the pressure off themselves. The opportunity to change the world will come. First, they need a year (or two!) to gain perspective and much-needed workplace knowledge.
Tip 2: Don't Let Them Take the Summer Off
Many kids will try to convince their parents this is their last summer to have fun and relax. And parents longing for the chance to do the same may agree. But job search is a process that doesn't happen quickly. It will likely take your child all summer to identify the kind of work they want to do, build network connections, and land interviews to get hired for their first full-time gig. In that time, making them work an hourly job that doesn't require a college degree will both humble them and motivate them to figure out their first career move faster. Also, nothing screams "entitled" more to a recruiter than a student in October who says they took the summer off to relax and are now "ready" to work full-time. Companies like to hire students that are eager to get working. What a recent grad lacks in experience, they should make up for in enthusiasm.
Tip 3: Encourage Them to Leverage Their Natural Affinity for Online Learning
Today's graduate is used to information at their fingertips. The idea of setting an appointment and going down to the career center isn't appealing to them. And, unless their college is in their hometown, it's usually not feasible after graduation. Instead, most kids are far more comfortable (and trusting!) of online tools they can access 24/7. For example, when asking young people to research how to do something, it's more intuitive for them to go to YouTube and look for relevant videos than to try to find someone in their network to talk to. They've been raised on technology that lets them get instant access to various POVs on a wide range of topics. Why would career advice be any different?
In short, reducing their anxiety by managing their expectations, keeping them busy, and encouraging them to use learning tools they're familiar with are three ways you can help your child avoid having a career meltdown after graduation.