From College to Career: What’s a Parent to Do?

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By: Lynda Grossman

Do you know a student about to graduate?  As the parent, grandparent, older sibling or mentor of a college senior, you may feel that same helplessness you felt as they were graduating from high school and choosing colleges. There are decisions to make, jobs to apply for – this is a major transition… for your college student.

Finding the fine line between providing guidance and meddling can be an anxiety-provoking challenge for the interested and invested observer (you). The reality is that it is THEIR life. Trust their decision-making but be present in a way that can help.

Here are some tips on helping your student make the leap from college to career with the least stress for both of you:

  1. Trust that you have raised them with the confidence to find their way.
  2. Don’t nag. This is really, really difficult. But resist the urge to ask about how the search is going more than once per week. Asking more than that is a sure way to shut down communication rather than open a dialogue.
  3. Offer to connect them with any of your contacts that they request. Don’t force or prearrange networking meetings for them but certainly make sure they know that your network is available to them.
  4. Don’t push them to graduate school as a fallback to have something to do. There are countless young women and men who either drop out of graduate school or even graduate just as clueless and unsure of themselves as when they graduated college. They are then expensive and over-educated, sometimes less marketable than if they had pursued a job straight after college. Let them find their true passion for graduate studies.
  5. Ask them if they have taken advantage of available resources. College and university career offices have a myriad of services and resources (not just on-campus recruiting) designed to help students identify skills and interests, clarify career goals and conduct an effective job search. Career coaching, either from their school or hired privately may be the extra, objective perspective that can help.
  6. Listen. They need your support more than anything. Yes, you do have valuable feedback. You know them. You know their strengths. Reflect those back without imposing judgments or strong opinions. Take your cues from them. Offer opinions when asked.
  7. Encourage them to take care of themselves through the job search process. Yes, finding a job can be a full-time job. However, feeding the soul and keeping up self-esteem is critical. Volunteering, working out, continuing or taking up a hobby can be just what they need to keep them productive and feeling good about themselves during this transformative time.

What have you done for a mentee or college student that you think helped their efforts to find themselves and make the transition from college or career?

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