How to Help Your Child Transition Successfully from College to Career

A Guide for Parents

By Ford R. Myers
President, Career Potential, LLC

Over the past year, we’ve received a number of phone calls from parents of recent college graduates. This is unusual for two reasons: (1) we don’t usually work with clients in their twenties; and (2) these parents are seriously concerned about their children’s ability to start careers. Indeed, many parents are now paying our career coaching fees, to ensure that their kids will have every advantage in the transition from school to work.

I’ve been saying for years that colleges do virtually nothing to prepare new graduates for the “real work-world.” Most college placement offices are woefully inadequate – and knowing this, most students avoid using these services altogether. Graduating from a fine university does NOT guarantee that a student will have a clear career direction, or that a student will know how to mount a successful job search campaign.

You may have heard the term “Boomerang Kids.” This describes the growing number of recent graduates who return home to live with their parents – often well into their thirties! Needless to say, this is not the outcome most parents had in mind when they sent their kids off to college.

So, what’s a parent to do?! Here are seven suggestions for parents, based on actual career coaching work we’ve done with recent college graduates. Following these recommendations will help produce far better results than those described above:

  1. Invest in career development coaching. After spending tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of dollars on college, it’s a pretty sure bet that your children never received ANY training or guidance in how to choose a career, get a job, or participate productively in the workforce. Don’t let all that money go to waste. Invest another 1%-5% to ensure that your children’s education will pay-off – with smarter career choices, better jobs, and higher long-term compensation.
  2. Teach your children responsible work habits. Patience, discipline, respect, industriousness and punctuality are habits that were “assumed” in previous generations of new workers – but these qualities are all too rare among recent college graduates. Employers complain about this, and they are worried about how to find, develop and retain a workforce to replace the huge numbers of retiring baby boomers. The new employees who will get ahead are the ones who embrace and embody these traits. Therefore, parents should strive to model these behaviors and instill these qualities early in the lives of their children.
  3. Don’t tell your children that, “If they finish college, they’ll be assured of a successful career.” This may have been true several generations ago, but it certainly isn’t true any longer. Today’s college degree is yesterday’s high school diploma – and it doesn’t guarantee ANYTHING. To succeed in today’s work-world, your children will need much more than a college degree. They’ll need your guidance, along with talent, determination, persistence, a strong work ethic and maybe a bit of good luck. They’ll also need a real-world perspective on what it REALLY takes to succeed.
  4. Provide your children with resources, support and encouragement – but don’t coddle them. Many new college graduates have never had to work or assume responsibility for earning any level of income. Naturally, this leads to problems when the child graduates from college and is suddenly thrust into the job market. Even worse, many parents have indulged or “spoiled” their children, leading to a sense of entitlement. Your children will have to work for a long time, and it’s important that they get used to this idea from a young age. Once your children have finished school, make it clear that they must take responsibility for their own career and income, through good times and bad.
  5. Explain to your children how important it is to create and control their image on the Internet. Every new worker has (or will soon have) an online presence. In this age of cell phone cameras, You Tube, and Face Book, the trail your children leave on the Internet will follow them for a long time to come. Employers know this, and they research job candidates on the Internet before making hiring decisions. It is vitally important that every young person take control of their online identity, and carefully monitor the “personal brand” they’re building on the Internet. Encourage your kids to use online career management tools such as Linked-In and VisualCV, to optimize and leverage their online presence.
  6. Help your children get their first “break” by leveraging family relationships and business contacts. The work world is more competitive than ever, and new graduates face serious challenges in getting their careers started-out on the right foot. Even the most qualified young candidate can benefit from a bit of help in the form of “connections.” Rather than being overly proud and rejecting such assistance, encourage your children to welcome the idea of “getting a break” through friends or family as they launch their careers. It will still be up to your children to prove themselves on the job, or they won’t be employed there for long – even if they’re related to the boss.
  7. Allow your children to pursue the career path they truly love; not the career path you think they should love. If your child is fortunate enough to discover a professional path that he or she truly loves, you must encourage and facilitate their pursuit of that career. Put the necessary time and resources into this mission, and the results will be powerful. If your children struggle with identifying their best career directions, engage a professional Career Coach to help them find their right work. Avoid the temptation to push your children into the career paths YOU think they should follow. Instead, let them find their own gifts and passions. This is one of the most generous and healthy things a parent can do for a child.

About the Author:
Ford R. Myers is an award-winning career coach and President of Career Potential, LLC. He is author of the best-seller, Get The Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring. Ford’s firm helps clients take charge of their careers, create the work they love, and earn what they deserve! He has held senior consulting positions at three of the nation’s largest career service firms. Ford’s articles and interviews have appeared in hundreds of magazines, newspapers, television and radio networks. He has also conducted presentations at many companies, associations and universities. Learn more at www.CareerPotential.com or contact Ford directly at 1-800-972-6588.

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