Remember the days when teenagers headed off to University at 18 never to return to the family nest? Nowadays it ‘s more likely that they will be trudging back home with their suitcases the day after finals and, with graduate jobs thin on the ground and home ownership a distant dream , many twentysomethings will come and go from the family home many times before leaving home for good. Welcome to the boomerang generation!
Parents are often desperate to help their kids stand on their own two feet and begin living independently – and that all starts with landing a ‘good’ job. The danger is that this anxiety to help may come across as nagging, increasing the pressure on kids and making themdefensive and argumentative.
Here’s how to stay positive and help your kids get a foot on the career ladder:
- Recognise that not all successful graduates will start their careers on formal training schemes in large firms. The job market has changed. Many graduates start their professional careers in smaller organisations, build up work experience slowly across several organisations or even, in some sectors, have to prove themselves through internships first. Help your son or daughter find out what routes exist to get into the kind of job which appeals.
- Your boomeranger may be procrastinating because he or she doesn’t feel ready to commit to a particular career path and doesn’t want to ‘make a mistake’. Reassure them that they don’t necessarily have to choose a career for life at this stage, just a place to start. Help them reflect on the kind of work they might enjoy: talk to them about what they have enjoyed in the past, how they like to spend their spare time and the kind of environment and work which definitely doesn’t appeal – all these can give them clues as to what work they might enjoy. Browse through job roles on www.prospects.ac.uk and suggest they take the ‘What Jobs Would Suit Me?’ questionnaire on its website. Encourage them to make contact with the careers service at their former University for help. Keep lines of communication open and adopt a joint problem solving approach.
- If your kids declare they would like to take a gap year or have a break for a few months, encourage them to use the time constructively. Investigate whether they could use the time to volunteer or gain work experience as well as travelling.
- Help your son or daughter look for work experience. If they know what career they would like to enter, then experience in a relevant sector is ideal – but any work experience is better than none. This allows them to collect evidence of transferable skills, helps them extend their professional network and can even lead directly to a job once the employer gets to know them. As well a formal work experience placements consider temporary office work (ideally in their target sector) and volunteering (try www.do-it.org.uk for opportunities). Get your son or daughter to tap into their personal and family network to ask about unpaid work experience or even a few days of work shadowing. This all demonstrates initiative, resilience and enthusiasm to potential graduate employers. And it will help them to work out whether this field of work is for them.
- Encourage your child to approach organisations in their target area with speculative applications. Encourage them to write a carefully tailored cover letter demonstrating real research into the company and communicating their enthusiasm.
- If your child has graduated within the last 2 years or so, don’t forget that they can still apply for graduate training schemes designed for fresh graduates. It is becoming more common for graduates to enter these schemes a year or two out of University. Most applications open in the autumn for start dates the following autumn, but some graduate employers recruit year round. Suggest you son or daughter registers to access the jobs board at their previous University, registers with recruitment agencies specialising in new graduate positions and signs up at general graduate jobsites such as target, milkround and prospects.
- Don’t make it too easy for them. Insist on them getting up at a reasonable time of day and helping with household tasks – as this will maintain their work ethic. Encourage them to make an action plan, with specific tasks and deadlines, so they can keep up the momentum in their job hunting. Ask them for a small contribution towards household bills and hold the pocket money. As parents, you may want to make life easier for your kids and find it hard to see them stuck for cash, but if they are financially comfortable this may reduce the incentive to find well paid work.
Remember that this time will pass. The patience, support – and even, at time, tough love -you offer at this stage will reap rewards later on when you see them take their first steps towards a worthwhile career.