How to Help Your Child Find a Job

How to Help and Where to Hold Back

College student and father at laptop
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As a parent, you can play a useful role in helping your child search for jobs. However, be sure your good intentions don't go too far and have a negative effect.

Here are a couple of examples of over-involved parenting that can be counterproductive: The mother of a recent graduate attended a college alumni career networking event with her daughter. She came to "help" her daughter—who looked appropriately mortified—find a job.

In another example, a young man who had recently earned a PhD accepted a postdoctoral position in a city far from his hometown. He arrived to tour campus and search for housing with both parents in tow to approve of the job offer and the community.

However, if your son or daughter is like most young people, he or she will need some guidance and encouragement to be appropriately engaged in the career planning process. You can help lay the groundwork with advice and support and then encourage your child to move forward independently toward goals that they embrace. 

Tips for Helping Your Son or Daughter Get Hired

The following suggestions will help you to take on a constructive role and help your child to take positive steps toward planning their career and landing a job.

1.  Encourage your child to learn about careers from an early age. Discuss your role at work and the role of colleagues at your workplace. Foster curiosity about the occupational involvements of friends, other family members, and neighbors. Introduce your child to resources with career information like the Occupational Outlook Handbook

2.   Investigate the services offered by your child's high school guidance or college career office. Most offices will have detailed websites outlining their services. Point out programs and resources that you think might be helpful for your son or daughter. Ask your child to set up a meeting with a career counselor early during their high school or college years so they have a chance to explore their options.

3.  Teach your child how to conduct an informational interview and have them practice with you and other close contacts. These meetings will help them to explore options, hone interviewing skills, and make positive impressions that can lead to jobs and internships. Introduce them to colleagues and local professionals in roles that spark their curiosity. Help them to write their first email asking to set up an informational meeting, and critique subsequent letters until you are confident that they are representing themselves effectively.

4.  Encourage your son or daughter to set up job shadows through his or her guidance or career office or through your contacts or local professionals. Job shadowing experiences will help them to solidify contacts and explore work roles and work environments.

5.  Emphasize the importance of gaining experience and experimenting with interests through internships and summer jobs starting during high school. Don’t fixate on money; encourage even unpaid internships to build resume fodder. It will pay off later.

6.  Insist that they formulate a draft of their resume (with your help and that of school counselors) from an early age to show them the importance of gaining experience. School activities and sports can be used to populate their document prior to accumulating formal work experience.

7.  Preach the gospel of networking. Share examples of how utilizing contacts has helped you and others during job searches. Help them to organize a networking campaign by sharing your family/friend contacts and coaching them about effective ways to approach contacts. Make sure your college-age child reaches out to their career and alumni offices and asks about networking contacts in fields of interest and networking events sponsored by their college.

8.  Ask them to make an appointment for a practice interview at their school and/or conduct a mock interview yourself. Discuss interviewing strategy with them.

9.  Review job/internship postings with them from their school’s databases and sites like Set weekly goals for applications. Help critique and proofread their cover letters.

10. Get involved with their school’s career services. Volunteer to help your child’s career office with networking events and career days. You will meet other parents who may be of assistance to your child in a “you rub my back, and I will rub yours” manner.

11. Avoid speaking to employers on your child’s behalf or accompanying your child to career events or interviews. Help to equip them with knowledge and skills and then let them fight their own battles. Assist with transportation as needed if they aren’t able to drive themselves.

12. Don’t make your adult children too comfortable with hanging out at home after graduation. Make sure they take on as much financial responsibility as possible—it will motive them to get a good job. Hold them accountable for taking productive steps like those above to seek employment while you are subsidizing them.

13. Celebrate their successful steps in the process. Parental praise can go a long way toward motivating your child to be engaged. A congratulatory trip to the ice cream parlor for a task well done won’t hurt either.