10 Ways Parents Can Hurt Their Child’s Job Chances
Life + Money

10 Ways Parents Can Hurt Their Child’s Job Chances

iStockphoto/The Fiscal Times

College students are not investing sufficient time in getting a job--one reason many struggle to find employment after graduation. This assertion is based on a recent survey of 200 students by Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research firm, and StudentAdvisor.com – two organizations that study the second largest demographic group in the country.

Generation jobless has led to more parents getting involved in their child's job search.   A new study by More Than a Resume, a career-advice site, finds 40 percent of parents are helping their children land their first professional job after graduation — and some are going much too far. Stories from parents calling employers to negotiate better salaries for their child and showing up on the job interview have surfaced in recent years. While most parents mean well, they’re not always in the best position to help — 73 percent say they don't have the right knowledge and contacts to help their child, and 68 percent say they don't know how to help..

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Jane Horowitz, a career coach who runs More Than a Resume, says while in school, students don't take advantage of college career service departments. She says she is often contacted by parents for her services after their child has been home from college three to four months after graduating. When parents try to help on their own, their assistance can often be counterproductive. "Parents are stepping in and their over-involvement is impeding not only the job search but also their child's ability to launch," says Dani Ticktin Koplik, an executive coach consultant.

Here are some tips for parents trying to help their college graduate land that crucial first job:

1. Don't run the job search.
Parents can offer suggestions and provide advice, but their child needs to implement the search and handle the follow-up, says Lauren Stiller Rikleen, executive-in-residence at Boston College's Center for Work and Family. "Be the advisor, someone they bounce ideas off of, but don't do the work for them," she says.

2. Don't write their resume. Parent-written resumes "are easy to spot," says Horowitz. They're not written in the way current resumes are and don't reflect their child's writing skills, she says. "You have to allow your children to do this. They know how to do it better than parents," she says. However, parents can proofread resumes and provide feedback, since getting multiple perspectives is helpful. Koplik says an important question to ask is: "What are you trying to accomplish, and how do you get there?" This helps the job searcher focus without taking over the process.

2. Don't negotiate your child's starting salary. Parents pay a fortune for college and are often seeking a quick payback, thinking their child deserves a hefty salary. Patrick O'Connor, past president of the National Association for College Admissions Counseling, knows of parents who have come in to negotiate salaries on behalf of their child. He said that the process is an essential rite of passage for students, and parents "should only be willing to do that if they want to do it for their child for the rest of their life." Horowitz adds that starting salaries are sometimes set, leaving little room for negotiation.

3. Don't be the one who killed their dream — or harass them to take the boring, safe job right away, says Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, a psychology professor at Clark University and co-author, with Elizabeth Fishel, of When Will My Grown-Up Kid Grow Up? Loving and Understanding Your Emerging Adult. This is the one time that your child can aim high for a job he really loves. Chances are he won't get his dream job anyway, so don't urge him to take the safe job that he hates — especially in today's work environment, where no job is guaranteed to be secure.

4. Don't tell your child to make demands of their potential employer. Koplik is full of stories from recruiters about inappropriate behavior among young job applicants. One told a recruiter on the first day of an accounting internship that he had to leave early on Thursdays for horseback riding lessons. A Silicon Valley executive, in a telephone interview with a young woman, suddenly heard the phone go dead. Hours later, the woman called back to tell the interviewer that she had been getting a pedicure during their interview and her phone fell in the tub. Another walked into an interview and immediately asked for a trash can. When their interviewer extended their hand for the trash, the candidate gave him a piece of chewed gum. Koplik urges parents to school their children on etiquette, including shaking hands, being on time and dressing appropriately.

5. Never contact an employer on behalf of your child. Parents can assist in networking and facilitate a connection if they have contacts in their child's field of choice, says Lisa Severy, director of career services at the University of Colorado Boulder. But let your son or daughter make the appointment and do the legwork.

6. Don't go on a job interview with your child. "We've heard stories about parents managing interview appointments, accompanying students on interviews and calling employers for feedback after the fact," says Severy. "This type of involvement is highly discouraged," since it sends the message that a student cannot function on their own and very few people want that quality in an employee, she said.

7. Don't try to rescue your child. If your son or daughter complains about work conditions, be supportive but don't call their boss or encourage them to switch jobs. "We have to help millennials build a reservoir of resilience,” says Rikleen. Millennials who have been supported their whole life by parents and teachers find the workplace less supportive — even unfair, says Severy. But learning to handle those bumps in the road will ultimately be helpful. "Employers need problem-solvers, and most prefer candidates who have dealt successfully with adversity independently," she says. Instead of sympathizing with their son or daughter and sharing their gripes about workplace injustices, Koplik encourages parents to tell their child to work hard so she can prove herself a worthy employee. Let her know she’s there to serve, not be accommodated.

8. Don’t ignore what your child’s doing on social media and Facebook. Koplik has found photos of some college student clients playing beer pong on their Facebook page. College graduates should have a social media presence, but remove any images that could convey the idea that they're not responsible.

9. Don’t forget about their university's career services division, which are full of job-searching resources. Most colleges offer these services to students even after they graduate, O'Connor says.

10. Don’t stress. Realize that emerging adulthood is inherently unstable for almost everybody. Don't worry if your college graduate, at 23, still has no idea what she wants to do with her life, says Arnett. She’ll eventually figure it out. "Parents do have a tendency to panic and fear their kids never will land, but they do," he says.