Helping Your Student in the Job or Internship Hunt

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In these difficult economic times, most college parents are anxious about their students finding an appropriate internship or first job.  As parents, we want to do all that we can to help support our student through the search process.  However, there may be a fine line between providing support and stepping too far across that line to inappropriate involvement. 

As a generation, we are earning the title of “helicopter parent” and schools, colleges and employers are all recognizing that our involvement has great influence on our children and young adults. CERI, the Collegiate Employment Research Institute sponsored by Michigan State University recently surveyed 725 employers regarding parental involvement with job applicants and employees.  Unfortunately, the majority of employers see parents as a negative “interference.”

Approximately 23% of employers see parents involved in the job search sometimes or very often. 

Clearly, as parents, we want to be involved in this important step for our sons and daughters.   .  However, mastering good job searching skills is important for your student since he will likely search for jobs multiple times throughout his career.  So what, then, should we do to help, and what might we want to avoid?  Here are a few suggestions.

DO help in the following ways

  • DO be your child’s mentor.  A mentor is a wise and trusted counselor, adviser and supporter.  Be there to guide, give advice, and provide a listening ear, but let your student do the work and take the lead.
  • DO share leads about jobs, but then let your student act on those that are interesting to her.
  • DO offer to proofread letters, resumes, etc. 
  • DO share your own resume with your student as a way to talk about what should or shouldn’t be included or how to word or frame experience.
  • DO talk to your student about professional expectations, business demeanor, workplace behavior, professional dress.
  • DO talk to your student about good interviewing skills, what kinds of questions to expect, how to prepare for follow-up questions, how to make small talk, how to prepare answers to likely questions.
  • DO offer to run some mock or practice interviews with your student.
  • DO talk to your student about realistic expectations in the job hunt and on a first job.
  • DO help your student understand the realities of job searching as a full time endeavor.
  • DO help your student define and clarify his goals and create a plan of action.
  • DO help your student plan ahead and anticipate what needs to be done.
  • DO continue to provide lots of support through a difficult, often discouraging, and long process. 

DON’T interfere in these ways

  • DON’T write your student’s resume, cover letters, etc.
  • DON’T contact a potential employer on your student’s behalf, even if you know the person. 
  • DON’T make phone calls on your student’s behalf.
  • DON’T attend a career fair with or for your student. 
  • DON’T attend an interview with your student.  If he needs transportation, drop him off and leave.
  • DON’T contact a potential employer to negotiate a better deal for your student.
  • DON’T forget that this is your student’s challenge and search.  There are important and lasting life lessons to be learned from the process of job seeking – in addition to the ultimate goal of obtaining a position.

As with so many stages and ways of being involved, appropriate guidance, communication, and knowing when to step back is key.  Watching your student seek his first job or internship can be a challenging but rewarding experience. 

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