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Working Toward the Coveted Empty Nest

Posted on 26 July 2010 by admin (1)

You raised your son well and put him through the best schools money could buy. You financed not only your daughter’s undergraduate education, but subsidized her internship salary so she could get hands-on experience and still have a social life. And then, as the fates would have it, your smart, educated, personable kid graduates from college into the worst economy in a generation. The competition for entry-level jobs is stiff, and, after sending out countless carefully proofread resumes, the rejection letters pile up, and lethargy sets in.

Since you put a roof over their head, food on the table, and maybe have built in laundry and housekeeping services, your son or daughter isn’t exactly totally motivated to get creative about finding his or her first job. Or, maybe they’ve got the will, but are truly stumped, and getting a little depressed. And, that is making you a little edgy and unhappy – well you’re not alone. Also, odds are it isn’t your kid’s fault that they can’t find a job within a few months after graduation. But, here’s the thing, you need a strategy to help them fly out of the nest before you drive each other totally nuts.

So, how can you help them? I’m not a psychologist and I certainly don’t have anywhere near all the answers on parenting (would that I did), however, I do (of course!) have some ideas to get things moving in a more positive direction.

Establish Control

  • Lay out the ground rules for life at home after college. Let it be known that your child’s 5-day a week job is now to get up at a reasonable hour and work on finding a job. No lying on the sofa watching videos or playing Xbox all afternoon. No all night parties mid-week. No multi-hour Facebook sessions. Enforce this with routine conversations about what it is they have been doing to find their first full-time job (more on this below).
  • Adopt a minimalist approach to financing the post-college lifestyle. Until they can find full-time employment, they can finance at least part of their overhead with a part time job scooping ice cream, pumping gas, mowing lawns, whatever. This has the added benefit of making them have to be efficient in scheduling their time to fit in both work and looking for the ideal job – energy begets energy, not to mention a sense of purpose. In the end it’s actually more about the work ethic and self-esteem than the money.

Widen the Playing Field

  • Encourage your son or daughter to expand the net of possibilities for full-time employment by seeking out jobs not just in their most ideal field and position, but in fields and positions that are related or could be a stepping stone in the right direction. They should do research online and in person with people in a variety of fields. Who knows, through research they may discover that something they never previously considered really lights them up. They may meet the person who can give them a job.
  • If an internship or other form of advanced skill building or networking arises that has the potential to improve your child’s chance of landing a job – or landing a better job – arises, consider it. For example, if your daughter was a finance major, maybe send her to a high-level professional conference where she can learn something new and meet people in the field. If your son longs to be a photojournalist, maybe a year in the Peace Corps will give him a chance to build a portfolio. The determining factors in this idea are (a) can you afford to support your child through it, and (b) does it truly offer the possibility of advancing their job-prospecting opportunities?

Call in Your Chips

  • When their newly expansive resume is ready to roll, work your own Rolodex, and the Rolodexes of anyone for whom you’ve ever done a favor. Getting your child’s resume into the hands of someone you know makes it more likely to get attention than the hundreds of resumes that flood into HR in-boxes every day. You know you’d help any way you could if someone asked you … and you’d feel pretty good about yourself for doing it. Let somebody else have the chance to be a hero!

Will any of these tactics result in your child finding the coveted first job? Part of finding a job is absolutely a numbers game. But, even more than that it is a game where perseverance and a good attitude ultimately get you to your goal. So, more than anything, what these tactics do is set a tone of optimism and possibility.  They give your almost grown up child responsibilities that they can live up to, and they give you opportunities to praise your child as they take on a pretty daunting task.

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One Response to “Working Toward the Coveted Empty Nest”

  1. Mike Jaglois says:

    This is good and welcome advice, Scott. I have 3 recently or just about to graduate and have seen the lethargy that comes with rejection. But action overcomes fear (and lethargy) so getting them up and about is key. Thanks.


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