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by R. William Holland, PhD
Perhaps you’ve heard people say, “A parent’s job never ends.” Well, it especially feels that way when the kids are in the high school through college years. If they happen to boomerang home after that, you will likely become a true believer.
When our sons moved back home after graduating college, my wife and I got an up close and personal look at what it means to live with boomerang kids. We wondered whether we had done enough to prepare them for today’s job market or if they were just lazy. Our guess was it was something in between.
Since then I have spoken with hundreds of parents, researched the phenomena of boomerang kids and written three books on the subject of career management in the “new job market.” Here is what I’ve discovered:
We were not alone. Parents in every city I visited (I traveled a lot in those days) experienced the same thing. The problem has only gotten bigger. Today, according to the Department of Labor, a record 36 percent of 18 to 31 year olds live at home, many because they cannot afford to do otherwise. And nearly 50 percent of Americans with college degrees have jobs that do not require degrees.
It’s a dramatically different job market. A college degree by itself is no longer enough for your graduate to land a professional well-paying job. Students need to prepare for the job market beginning day one of college – and perhaps before.
Soft skills are no longer considered “soft.” You’d think that a solid technical background would be enough to land a job with a company like Google for example. No way! Beside technical competence, Google (and many other companies) insist that entry-level hires have depth in the areas of communication, leadership, teamwork, critical thinking and problem solving – all skills that can be developed and demonstrated during the college years.
Your student should focus on the full spectrum of skills and requirements that employers want to see in entry-level candidates and not solely on their academic major. That means using their time in college wisely while accomplishing more than just earning a degree.
Parents have a major role to play once their kids are in college and even after they graduate.
Here are 5 things parents can do to help teens become job ready:
- Help them establish the critically important mindset that connects college to career. Not knowing what they want for a major or career while in college is okay. Failure to work on it is not. Students need to take advantage of available career counseling resources in high school if possible, but for sure while in college.
- Give them skin in the game by sharing the college expense load even if you can afford to pay it all. If it is their money too, they are more likely to take responsibility earlier.
- Don’t rely on the university to make the connection between college and career. Generally, universities have never fully accepted that responsibility and career readiness has never been a major priority.
- Visit the campus career services center together sometime during the freshman year. You will learn which companies visit the campus to recruit, which student profiles companies are most likely to hire, and what resources are available to help your student land a professional job at graduation. You’ll also get a better idea of what’s required in the new job market.
- Don’t confuse struggle with failure. Some students “get it” sooner than others. Who cares? It’s not where you start but where you finish that counts.
It’s never too early to have conversations with your kids (even your grandkids) about career readiness. Last Christmas, my brother Bob and I overheard our adult children having career readiness discussions with their kids. With the younger ones it was about “what do you want to be when you grow up?” But for the teenagers, it was about career interest and how to get ready. Those discussions involved more than going to college and earning a degree.
I strongly suggest doing the same for your kids.
R. William Holland, PhD, is the author of the soon-to-be-published The Path From Backpack to Briefcase: A Parent’s Guide, as well as Cracking the New Job Market and Are There Any Good Jobs Left?. Read more at www.therightjobguy.com.