A Parent’s Job is Never Done: Even When the Kids Are Away at College

“Whew! My student got into a great college; has chosen a solid major; and we are paying for it mostly with other people’s money. Now that she is positioned for academic and career success, I can finally relax!

Having been there, done that, I know the feeling. But if you are at all like me, you also know better. Life has a way of tossing more than a few curve balls our way just when we think the game is mostly over. Here is one that could be coming your way. And here is some advice on how to knock it out of the park.

The Department of Labor reports that nearly 50% of all college graduates have jobs that do not require a college degree. Thirty-six percent of recent college graduates live at home or with relatives because they cannot afford to do otherwise. And, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), college graduates are often forced to accept jobs that constitute occupational downgrades which could take as much as two decades to overcome.

This is happening largely because the job market has changed and it is more than just a slowly recovering economy. College degrees are no longer tickets of entry to professional jobs the way they used to be. Though the degree is still necessary, students today have to prove themselves to employers more than ever before.
The good news here is that there is there is a lot parents can do to help their graduate develop the kind of profile employers will find attractive.

Here are five things parents can do to kick start that process:

  1. Start a discussion and get agreement with your student that a professional job after college is a major end-game. The follow-on discussion should focus on what they have to do during college to make a professional job happen.
  2. Treat college as a four year job search. Students who are focused on a specific objective tend to do better than those who are adrift.
  3. Don’t believe for one minute that there are adequate career counseling resources available on campus. Faculty does not have adequate vocational counseling expertise and the ratio of career services counselors to students on American campuses is a whopping 1650 to 1.
  4. Find out characteristics employers will likely look for when they visit campus to interview. You will find this by visiting the career services center and reading the position descriptions recruiters leave to describe their positions and what it takes to qualify. Over the course of four years be sure your student qualifies themself.
  5. At the very latest, get started on a job search beginning the junior year. There is a lot to learn about locating the right job opportunity; effective interviewing; using references effectively and more.

Congratulations if our student has gotten into a great college; has chosen a solid major; and you are paying for it with other people’s money. But now is not the time to relax.


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