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How to Help, Not Hinder an Adult Child’s Job Search

If you are in life stage: Pounding the Pavement Posted August 21st, 2013
By Kathryn Sollmann

Recently I received an online hand slap from a professional woman who claimed I should never have asked her (via Linkedin) if she would be willing to network with my recent college grad daughter. Since I was a recruiter for 10 years, I thought I’d help parents understand when parental help is a not a hindrance but an acceptable help.

Probably as far back as medieval times parents were “making a few calls” (via messenger on horseback) to help their young sons (and maybe daughters) land a job working for some king or queen. The “old boy network” has run through generations of grandfathers, fathers and sons—and as women entered the workforce, mothers and daughters got in the act, too.  ID-10023039

It’s a well-known fact that opportunities in life require the opening of doors—either those that you pry open yourself or those entered more easily with the help of a family member or friend.  It’s foolish not to acknowledge that connections are everything—for jobs of literally every kind.

Thankfully, for the 99.9% of us who don’t usually hobnob with CEOs, there’s Linkedin, the great networking equalizer that helps job seekers at every level and every age (sometimes through a series of strategic moves) connect with just about anyone on the earth.

A big Linkedin network comes somewhat with age and professional experience, but definitely with time—and my nearly 5,000 connections dwarf the respectable 200 or so my 22-year-old daughter has amassed in her nascent job searching days. Using simple arithmetic, it’s clear that I have many more connections that can crack open the proverbial and often hard to budge door.

But remember, it’s just a door…not a job. Once your adult children pass through a door you’ve opened, your help is over. With few exceptions (like when a misguided company wants the prestige of a high profile employee—the daughter or son of a muckety-muck in chief), those adult children have to prove in often excruciating interviews (without a Mom or Dad in sight) that they have the chops for the job. You can’t, of course, take them on the interview, be the point person for all the follow up, negotiate their salary or generally sell the strengths they have to sell on their own.

During my recruiting years, I never witnessed an employer hiring anyone “just because” they were related to so and so and some elite gang. I know it does happen–but I can’t imagine the pain of dealing with a new hire that is the circle not fit for the square. Most respectable companies know they don’t have the time, money or human energy to train unqualified (or entitled) people—so in this competitive job market anyone who is hired has to be a true fit, work hard and live up to the job description ideal.

So 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 benefitted 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.  —KAS

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Photo credit: Nattavut/




3 Responses

  1. Rosalie Donlon says:

    I’m shocked at the professional woman’s reaction to your request. After all, a helping hand or introduction is what got most of us where we are today (especially women who entered the workforce in the 1970s and 1980s). And given the current economy, we should all be willing to help recent college grads along — whether they are our children or our children’s friends.

  2. Kathryn Sollmann says:

    I was shocked, too, Rosalie…but it’s good to know that most professional women know that networking of all sorts helps all of us and the generations that follow. Thanks for your comment!

  3. […] 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 […]

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