Today newly-minted grads contend with more than a poor economy and lots of talented competitors. Many come equipped with parents who have hovered over them from college into their efforts to find first jobs.
While it's hard to watch your child floundering, overindulging the parental instinct to protect and nurture children can backfire, even destroy your child's employment opportunities. (No doubt, the last thing you want.)
So what should you do? Here are six tips adapted from my new book, Graduate to a Great Career, on how you can help your child secure her first job -- while giving her the confidence and encouragement to pursue her dreams:
1. Redirect your child from endlessly browsing online job boards to networking into the hidden job market. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, 70 percent of jobs are gotten through networking not through filling out online job applications, which is how most new grads spend their time. Remember, online job applications only work when you have a near perfect match with the keywords in the job listing. Since most new grads have limited job experience, it's hard for most to have a strong keyword match. A smarter strategy is to focus on networking both in person and online. That way your child can tap into the "hidden job market," the majority of the best jobs that are unadvertised. Encourage your child to reach out to your contacts and to tell everyone they know about their job search: college friends, their friends' parents, professors, coaches, university alums, everyone. When they approach the job hunt more strategically, your child should be spending 70 percent of their time on marketing and networking activities, and 30 percent on online job applications.
2. Have your child complement broad search efforts with a targeted approach focused on a dream list of companies. Your kid doesn't want to work just anywhere, so suggest putting together a list of their top 20 dream companies and key players in each for special focus. (Key players to target are top executives, hiring managers, human resources professionals, etc.) Then, have her write a compelling pitch letter to hiring managers, or use social media like LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram to network by following her dream companies and key people at each. You'll be surprised how well social media networking can work and make you stand out from the crowd. Your child also can set up informational interviews with your business contacts and alums from their school who work at companies of interest or who are in desired jobs in their career path. Suggest that she get involved in professional groups to expand her network as well. Going to local and national conferences can be a great place to meet the movers and shakers in her industry and job function.
3. Encourage your child to seek out internships to get relevant real world experience. It used to be you could be a lifeguard or wait tables and land a job -- no prior relevant work experience required. That was once upon a time. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, internships are almost three times as important as grades or coursework for getting a job Why? Employers feel that real world job experience through internships and relevant job experience is the best predictor of job success. Your child can do internships during the summer, part-time during the school year, or while looking for a job after graduation. They can check out the internships offered by the university Career Services Office, and explore internship websites like internship.com and internmatch.com. Encourage your child to reach out directly to target companies for internship opportunities by writing a persuasive letter to the hiring manager or HR person who handles internships. That way you'll be getting relevant work experience at one of your dream companies. Plus there's often a bonus. The majority of paid internships lead to a job offer according to NACE (The National Association of Colleges and Employers).
4. Help them approach the job hunt like an entrepreneur or marketer. The "product" your child is selling is herself -- Brand You. Thinking like a brand means developing a marketing plan and a system for keeping track of various marketing activities and next steps, whether they do it on an Excel spread sheet, contact management software or with physical files. Key items to keep track of are the dates that resumes and pitch letters were sent, the dates of interviews, and the dates of thank-you notes and follow-up calls. If her cover letters, applications and interviews aren't going well, experiment with a different approach like marketers do. This can mean devising a new pitch or USP, unique selling proposition or improving her "product" with an online certification or internship to acquire a needed skill.
5. Stage mock interviews with your child so they can master the art of the pitch. When you were looking for a job it was about, "Can you do the job?" Now, with the quantity and quality of the competition the millennial generation faces, it's about, "How are you better than the other 200 job candidates who can do the job?" Your child has got to have a quick and compelling answer to that question - a differentiator that sets her apart from other candidates. One new psychology graduate pitched herself as an "up-and-coming marketer who understands the consumer mindset through my psychology major, and marketing and merchandising analytics through my two internships."
6. Be there for support -- but mostly out of sight -- to empower confidence. Unless your child is summa cum lucky, chances are she will face periods of frustration, self-doubt, and failure in the days, weeks and months of her job search. You can play an important role in keeping your child motivated, focused and positive. You have lots of work experience, your child doesn't. Be there for advice and coaching. Proofread letters, emails and resumes (but don't write them). You'll need to reinforce your child's self-confidence and motivation by reminding her that she has unique qualities and abilities that companies need. Getting a job is a mix of hard power skills (degrees, internships, skills) and soft power skills (confidence, image, communication ability and the like). You can't focus on one and neglect the other. When the job outlook seems gloomy, help her put things in perspective. It usually takes ten to fifteen pitches or applications to get an interview, and maybe the same number of interviews to get a job offer. So, it's best to get started on accumulating the rejections so that she gets the job offer she's worked hard to earn -- with your positive support.