Calgary, AB
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Helping your child get a job isn’t helping


by Eileen Dooley
From Globe and Mail

April 1, 2014

As the school year enters its final stretch, career coaches begin to see a surge in potential new business – not from the soon-to-be college or university graduates, but from their parents. At least a couple times a month, I get a call from a parent wanting me to help their adult child find a job.

When I ask the parent to have their child call me to arrange a preliminary consultation, the typical request from the parent is for me to call the child, because the child is really busy. They quickly e-mail me his or her phone number, sometimes with a schedule specifying when would be the best time to call. When I say that this is not the way I work, the parent sometimes asks the child to call me. More times than not, the adult child is not aware the parent has called me to begin with.


While I understand the motivation, I always counsel that this is doing nothing to help the adult child get a job. This is something they need to do on their own, and parents need to step back.

As a coach, I have heard the horror stories of parents going to job interviews with their adult child. Some have gone to extremes of calling the employer to find out why their adult child was not selected for the job, not considering it may be the actions of the parent that made the decision easier for the employer.

Looking for a first job is, and should be, competitive, where there is very little room for error. If done correctly, it builds mental strength, resilience (because there is lots of rejection in job searching), and pride once the first, hard-to-get job is offered and secured. If parents try to soften the blow, it only prolongs the inevitable – failure to secure a job, and/or failure to succeed in the job.

Here’s my advice to parents wishing to help their adult children get a job:

Let the person go through the potentially gruelling search process until an offer surfaces. For a first-time job seeker, that could take weeks, but more likely months. Support them during this time, but realize they have to do it on their own.

Encourage your adult child to use their network to get the word out about the kind of job her or she is seeking. Parents could use their own network to help an adult child, but be sure the child is taking the lead – that is, do not make calls on your child’s behalf.

If you would like to retain the services of a career coach, make sure the adult child takes the lead. Ideally, have them make the first phone call, and be prepared to ask a number of questions about the service, including setting a preliminary first meeting.

If you think I’m describing someone else, ask yourself these questions: Do you do your adult child’s laundry? Are you allowing your adult child to live at home until the “perfect job” comes up, which allows him or her to afford all the comforts of the home they grew up in? You may be guilty of creating a future job seeker or employee who finds it hard to be independent and does not know the meaning of responsibility and accountability in the workplace.

In case you’re wondering, I have two children, and when they are ready to find a job, I expect them to work hard at networking and using other job search strategies to help them find what they are looking for. When blood, sweat and tears go into it, they will be more appreciative of the role they were hired to do, and proud of the work they did to earn it.

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Eileen Dooley is a certified coach and lead consultant for McRae Inc. in Calgary.