With the hordes heading back to school, it hard to escape September's fresh-start mentality. For many Baby Boomers this month signals a rewind, whether it's packing off children to college, younger siblings to high school, or simply the return to a non-summer-mode routine.
But what if the beginning of fall signals only the continuation of a frustrated job search? For many grads in the class of 2013, September brings another month of unemployment, of living at home, and uncertainty about the future. A year ago my youngest child, college class of 2012, was in that twilight zone and lamented, "I've been going to school for the last 18 years and always knew what I needed to do to succeed. Now, for the first time, I am clueless."
It's hard not to hover anxiously as your adult child sends out resumes or to ask for daily updates. So we offer some tips on coping (been there, done that) with the mounting anxiety -- both your child's and yours -- during the job search.
Be patient: When my daughter started looking for a job, a HR professional told me it takes at least six months for most recent grads to find work. She was right, and I've seen that timeline played out again and again with friends' children and former students. Potential employers seem in no rush to respond -- if ever -- to applications and inquires. Even the lag time between an interview and an offer -- or not -- can take weeks or months. Our adult children are used to living in an instantaneous culture; the job hunt happens in an alternate universe were life moves very slowly.
Give them a lesson in networking skills. Millenials who live online are amazingly hesitant to email or cold call (maybe because they seldom use the phone to actually talk). Suggest they set up "informational interviews," which may not lead directly to a job but can provide valuable contacts. Remind them that it's the so-called "weak links" or six degrees of separation that often lead to job openings.
Don't hover. Give them the names of your contacts and then step back. They need to make the calls, set up the interviews, follow up and write the thank you notes. Career coach Kathryn Sollmann writes, "My message is this: don't hesitate to open doors for your children, because I'm sure over the course of your life you've benefited from a few doors being opened for you. But as you stand in the doorway, after helping them get to this very preliminary step 1-say a firm 'good-bye, good luck and knock 'em dead.'"
Stop offering advice and listen. Sometimes they just need to vent without hearing a solution to their problems. We might want to reassure them that "it will all work out" or "try harder" or whatever seems the sensible answer. But the best answer is often commiserating for a few minutes and then moving on.
Promote tech and social media skills: One big advantage millennials bring to the workplace is their online skills. Encourage your child to practice and update their tech talents. One of the biggest areas of job growth is with online marketing and using social media to promote business. Knowing how an organization can maximize Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and whatever's next is a big plus on a resume as it knowing how to code for a website and producing slideshows and video. If they don't know how, now's the time to learn, perhaps at an adult-ed or online course.
Encourage a part-time job: Looking for work does not take 40 hours a week. Obviously, the ideal p/t work is in the field where they are seeking to start a career. But if that's not possible, babysitting, retail, drudge office work, tutoring, and sports coaching can all provide extra cash as well as structure and routine. Several young moms in my neighborhood were thrilled to find a responsible babysitter with a flexible schedule in my daughter even though they knew her availability was temporary until she landed a job.
Enjoy the interlude: My daughter was home for seven months before a job offer came in and she had to quickly relocate. I realized as we packed her for the move that this was probably the last time she will ever "live" at home. I wish I had savored the boomerang time more and believed that "this too will pass."
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