During the Q&A session after a recent talk I gave someone asked what I thought about parents who wanted to attend interviews with their recent college graduate. The way in which the question was asked and the ensuing discussion left no doubt about the audience’s point of view. They were against it! The collective feeling of the group was summed up by one of the participants who commented, “That’s what’s wrong with the kids today. Their parents are coddling them beyond healthy limits.”
It’s a point of view that is popular and easy to understand. But that should be the first sign there’s more here than meets the eye. Okay, I apologize for the “more than meets the eye” cliche. But there is more to consider. Let’s move beyond our initial prejudice to a broader view.
Much of what is happening is reflective of a new reality. Parents whose kids have gotten into perfectly acceptable schools and have graduated are worried. They should be.
- College cost more and delivers less than at any time in recent history
- Student debt is at an all time high and growing—some are still paying off student loans of their own as their children enter college
- Parents routinely borrow to send the kids to college
- The path from backpack to briefcase has clearly changed as nearly 50% of Americans with college degrees have jobs that do not require them
It used to be that if you had a college degree you had a well-paying professional job if you wanted one. That’s no longer true. Parents are beginning to understand that their responsibilities and influence do not necessarily wane as the kids go off to college. Students are beginning to see this is not their parent’s college experience (Rah, rah sis boom, bah) or job market. And that’s true in spite of advice from college administrators and educational professionals that it is time for parents to step back and let go.
Some companies are catching on faster than many educators as they report a growing number of requests from recent college graduates who ask “Can my parents attend the interview?” What is even more startling, companies who say “yes,” are winning the war for talent. The trend of greater parental involvement is growing.
The city of Sunderland England, for example, sponsors a “Work Discovery Week” during which they partner with local industries to educate young adults in the community about job opportunities at home. This year they extended the hours of the program until 8:30 PM and specifically invited parents to drop by after work. The purpose? To involve parents more in the career decisions of their kids (Sunderland).
We are in the midst of a dramatic restructuring of the global workforce with changing rules and expectations. The initial reactions of parents will likely be awkward and unpopular. Who cares? Their involvement is needed now more than ever.