Supporting your college student in the job search process*

Everyone’s heard the horror stories about parents becoming overly involved in their college students’ lives.

We all vow that we won’t become “those” parents, but it can be tough to know where to draw the line, especially when it comes to career issues. Starting a job search, creating a resume, going on interviews…this is new territory for most students.

Parents, on the other hand, have had years of experience developing careers and have a lot of wisdom to share. Guiding your student is appropriate, but sometimes guiding and suggesting morphs into instructing and doing. And this is where your help can actually hurt.

During my years of campus recruiting, I had a few experiences with overly involved parents. Their hearts were in the right place, and being a parent myself I understood their concern for their students. As an employer, however, the message I heard was “This candidate is not capable and responsible.”

When a parent returned my phone call to a student to schedule his interview, I assumed the student wasn’t really that interested in the position. When a parent phoned after an interview asking about her student’s status, I interpreted that as the student lacking initiative and follow-through skills. And when a dad called to coordinate his daughter’s travel schedule for the interview, I took that to mean the student had poor time management and organizational skills. Each of these parents were trying to assist their student’s job search but, in the end, the only thing their efforts achieved were lost opportunities for their student.

So what can you do to help? Here are “do’s and don’ts” for assisting your college student with a job search.

DON’T create a resume for your student.

I know this can be tempting. Chances are, your student is procrastinating. She’s never created a professional resume before; she’s stuck. And while you may not be a professional resume writer, you’ve made a few for yourself and they look pretty good. Why not help out and draft one for her?

Here’s why: your student needs to “own” that resume, and if you make it for her, that will never happen. Students need to be intimately familiar with every detail on that document. Interviewers will often say, “Walk me through your resume.” If your student has to constantly look at her resume to answer that question, it will leave the interviewer with a negative impression. Secondly, the resume creation process is extremely important in getting students thinking about their past experiences, accomplishments, etc. Having done a complete and thorough review of their background will be essential when it comes time to answer interview questions.

DO steer your student toward resume resources.

If your student is struggling, help find resources to create the best resume possible. This could be “how-to” books, an appointment with someone from the school’s career services office, or a professional resume writer. This last one may seem contradictory to the “DON’T” statement, so let me clarify. There are many different types of resume writers out there. Explore your options. Look for someone who will work with your student in creating the document. In my own practice, I spend a significant amount of time discussing the student’s background and experiences, asking questions and helping them take a fresh look at their history. This process not only helps them find accomplishments they’ve overlooked, but also prepares them for the interview process.

DON’T send out resumes for your student.

Again, another tempting area. You see a job your son or daughter would be perfect for. You mention it, but there’s no follow through on sending out a resume…what would it hurt to send one for her? Stop and think before you do this, because the answer is it could hurt. Recruiters remember students, especially students they call to schedule an interview with who have no idea what they’re talking about because the student didn’t send in a resume – the parent did.

DO help your student network.

You’re established in your career. You’ve got contacts in various industries; you’ve built up your LinkedIn network. Use those resources to help your student. Reach out to your network and let them know your student is graduating, what her degree is in, and what type of work she’s looking for. Introduce your connections to her. Most students have vast social media networks, but struggle when it comes to understanding professional networking. Showing your student how to network professionally can go a long way in helping her not only in the job search process, but with overall career development.

DON’T go on a job interview with your student.

Or follow-up with an employer after your student’s interview or call the employer to ask questions about the job, benefits or company.

As mentioned earlier, the ONLY thing you will accomplish is sending the message to the employer that your student is incapable of taking responsibility, lacks initiative, has poor time management/organizational/communication skills, etc.

DO share your own personal job search experiences.

You can’t be present at the interview to help answer questions or suggest questions to ask. You can’t interpret answers for potential employers or fix verbal blunders. But you can talk about your own experiences. Share stories about your first interviews during and fresh out of college. Talk about the mistakes you made and the lessons you learned from them.

Be careful not to lecture, though. As soon as students think they’re being told what to do and how to do it, they start to tune out. Instead, go out to a coffee shop on the weekend, or out for drinks after dinner. Have some quality time together and talk. And listen. Things have changed since you first started your career. At first, your student may think your stories are no longer relevant. So give her a chance to talk about that. Acknowledge that times have changed; technology has changed the way we do everything now, including getting a job. But then observe how some things remain the same – it’s still a nerve-wracking experience going into those interviews, you still have to make a good impression, and you’re still competing against numerous other candidates.

Being a parent is a never-ending job. As children grow older, it can become more difficult to discern how to help without hindering their growth. When it comes to the job search process, offering support, guidance and encouragement while allowing them to take responsibility for the actual work involved in the process is the best approach for your student’s career success.

*This article was first published on

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