It’s a scary moment when your kids start looking for their first real job. Once upon a time studying hard and coming out with good grades was enough to ensure a bright future, these days you need a bit more to stand out from the job hunting crowd.
You want them to get the best start possible but competition is fierce. It’s not surprising that one-fifth of parents don’t feel equipped to discuss careers with their kids. But where do you start?
‘It could be a long time since parents have done an interview,” says Kirsty Palmer, Head of Employability at London South Bank University. “The labor market’s very different now. Employers are really looking for people with the right attitude.”
Kirsty says that while getting a job used to be all about having a good grade point average, now many employers are looking for what’s known as “soft skills,” such as being able to communicate or work in a team.
‘Young people need to be getting involved with their community or extra-curricular activities to show they’ve got these skills,’ says Kirsty. “From a young age, encourage your children to do things like volunteer, play sports or get involved with something like debate club.”
In fact, it doesn’t matter what activity your child does outside of school. What matters is that they’ve done something in addition to their schoolwork to show they’re the type of person who’d make a good employee.
‘More than 40 percent of employers value volunteer experience as equivalent to formal work experience,’ agrees Nicole Williams, LinkedIn Career Expert. ‘While this wasn’t always the case, volunteering is now seen as another way where job seekers can build skills that employers are looking for.’
That said, just because your child’s president of the debate club and captain of the football team, it doesn’t mean they’re going to walk into an entry-level job the minute they get their graduation cap.
“Applying for jobs is a lonely thing,” says Kirsty. “It can take between six months and a year to get a job and somebody might have to apply for up to 20 jobs before they get an interview.”
So how can you help? Keep your child positive and encourage them to begin applying for jobs from the start of their final year. Then they need to keep applying, despite any setbacks.
“I advised my kids to be persistent about applying to as many jobs as possible,” says Sharon Greenthal, who blogs at Empty House Full Mind and is the co-founder of Midlife Boulevard. ‘I encouraged them to reach out to contacts they had to help them find jobs. I also reminded them to write thank you emails immediately after each interview. And I pumped them up when they felt frustrated!’
And it can be frustrating. In today’s market, rejection is a very real part of getting a job, so do whatever you can to help your child bounce back and try again.
“It’s not a reflection of the person,” says Kirsty. “It’s a reflection of the job market.”
Another route to try is an internship. Not only does it give your child a taster of the career they’re considering – which is beneficial if they’re unsure – but it could lead to a permanent role at the same company.
“66 percent of the graduates we place into internships earn themselves a permanent job at the host company,” says Alex Townley, Marketing Manager at Inspiring Interns, a company that helps students and graduates get internships.
Getting internships on their resumes was another way that Sharon helped her kids.
“We offered financial support so they were able to do internships during summers in college, which I believe helped them in their job searches,” she says.
While technology may have moved on a bit since you wrote your first resume, Alex believes that your child can use it to their advantage.
‘We record video resumes of all our candidates and find this is a brilliant way to add personality to a traditional resume,’ he says.
If that sounds too daunting, try simply making sure your child’s online profiles aren’t putting employers off.
“Like it or not, employers will look you up online!’ he says. ‘Social media is a brilliant way to bolster an application for a job and can demonstrate that you are an eloquent, valued member of society with a personality. Tighten up the privacy on your Facebook account but take Twitter seriously.”
Even if you feel like a fish out of water when it comes to social media technology, don’t underestimate what you have to offer your child.
“New research shows that more than 65 percent of American workers believe their parents have unshared knowledge or advice that could help their career,” says Nicole. “Parents have a wide network of former classmates, colleagues and friends that can help their child get a start in the career they want by making the appropriate introductions.”
As much as you want to help, at some point you have to let your child take the reins. For example, Nicole says that once you’ve introduced your child to a contact, you should let them follow it up themselves.
Alex Townley agrees: “Parents should provide support where necessary but know when to step away and let their child develop and behave like an adult,” he says. “We’ve heard stories of adults attending interviews with graduates – this is completely inappropriate and will inevitably put the employer off hiring someone.”
You’ve done all you can to help your child get that interview, now it’s time to put your trust in them.
At that point, your job is just to be there with a coffee and a sympathetic ear afterwards. After all, the interview process hasn’t changed that much!