While much of America (including Washington DC, we hope) seems concentrated on finding some creative ways to stimulate job growth for the middle-age, middle-class, and/or middle-management crowd — let’s not forget there’s another entire job hunting demographic facing daunting challenges, as well, in the current market.  It’s the “recently graduated” crowd, typically comprised of folks in their early twenties who have just completed several years of studies and are now anxiously trying to get their first real break into the professional world.

While I don’t work with a ton of clients in this age segment, relatively speaking, I have worked with a handful over the years, and can assure you that some things never change.  The younger professionals I encounter today seem (by and large) just as confused, lost, and stressed out about their career future as WE all were at that age!

Luckily, in cases when my dance card is full and/or I’m not the right fit for a given younger professional, I’ve got a great resource to refer them along to: Daniel Hallak of Next Step Career Consulting.

I’ve known and collaborated with Daniel for several years now — and what I love about him is that he’s one of the rare folks I meet who is every bit as passionate, engaged, and driven around the career coaching field as I am.  We compare notes on personal branding and social media.  We debate arcane resume methodologies.  We talk at length about nerdy career counseling stuff like “dependable strengths” and “portfolio careers” and “transferable skills inventories.”  And what’s more, he’s got an even greater perspective on the career mindset of younger professionals than I do, given his several recent years as a career advisor at Bellevue College — as well as the new role he’s just taken at Seattle Pacific University, assisting some of their masters-level students with career planning and placement.

At any rate, while still many months out, Daniel and I are in the process of planning out a new job search boot camp program for recent graduates that we plan on launching next June — just in time to help next year’s graduating class start their transition from academia into the working world.  I’ll be broadcasting further details about this program as the date gets closer, but if any of you are parents of a junior/senior in college — or a fairly recent graduate — please feel free to write me here if you’re interested in hearing more info about this new offering as it unfolds.  Or you can bug me at the same link, above, if you have any ideas about how we might be able to make the new program as useful and successful as possible!

Back to Daniel, though.  By way of further introduction, he offered to write up a guest post sharing some tips on how parents can partner most effectively with their working-age kids as they get ready to “leave the nest” and pursue their employment future.  Here’s the piece he authored — enjoy!

Failure to Launch (Guest Blog by Daniel Hallak)

The smell of trendy new clothes, slick backpacks, and platitudes of “you can do anything you want” fill the air… ah, the back-to-school season is in full swing. While this ritual will continue each year, for some parents whose children are approaching the end of college, this season is rapidly coming to a close and “real life” is about to kick into high gear. Jeans will be swapped for slacks, backpacks will be traded for briefcases, and parental pleas to earn high grades will turn into anxious prods to find a job.

It is no secret that this employment market is bleak for recent college graduates but the good news is that there are number of actions that you can take to ensure that your son or daughter doesn’t have to apply their Chemistry degree to remembering the finer points of the Cheese Cake Factory’s menu. After all, it is more complex than the Periodic Table of the Elements.

Here are a few ways that you can help your student position themselves for a smooth, college to corporate transition:

1)  Get help… early

When I was in college, I was clueless about the resources at my fingertips through my institution’s career center. Encourage your student to talk to their career center as early as possible. While a tough job market is certainly cause for concern, one of the biggest transitional issues with college graduates, particularly those with liberal arts majors, is a lack of direction and focus. Many students don’t know what they are “selling” and consequently spin in circles in their job search. The folks in career center offices can offer a number of assessments or reflective activities to help your student sharpen their focus and can often provide connections to alumni with similar career paths. If the career center doesn’t prove to be beneficial, consult a career coach who is familiar with the needs of recent graduates. Regardless, start this process as soon as their sophomore year.

2)  Open up your network

Most college students are willing to network and are fluent with social media. However, they often express frustration with their lack of professional connections. Spend some time to create a list of your personal relationships and identify enthusiastic, helpful people who may be willing to meet with your student. Look for people who your student can approach to either conduct an informational interview and learn about a new career, or meet with to glean insights into a target industry along with key referrals to hiring authorities. Bring this list to your student and show them the number of connections they have access to when they are ready. Make sure that your student understands the power of LinkedIn and leverages your connections as often as possible. For a cursory overview of LinkedIn in video format that is accessible to students, have them click here.

3)  Sell your student

Recently, I met with a fresh graduate whose parents were incredibly supportive. He had attended a good school and his family was rooted in the community, but he was still having a tough time capitalizing on his parent’s connections. I realized that while his parents would willingly introduce him to anyone, they didn’t know how to best “pitch” him. Discussions with their friends lacked the specificity required to create opportunities for meaningful interactions for their son. If your student is clear about their job search target, take some time to practice talking about the exciting directions that your son or daughter is planning upon graduation. Be sure to mention specific companies that your student is interested in working for as well as specific job titles or career paths that your child is embarking on. Once you have your talking points ready, turn them into a “broadcast” email to send to colleagues and friends on behalf of your student. See Matt’s recent post on this topic here.

4)  Work WITH your student, not FOR them

My father often repeats that you can lead a horse to water, yet you cannot make it drink. As trite as the adage is, it is completely true. You cannot and should not work for your student in their transition to professional life (see this Wikipedia article for a description on “helicopter parents”). Provide resources, emotional support, and personal connections among other things, but avoid the temptation to take the reins from your student, even if you could do a better job at getting them employed than they can. In the long run, this will develop the sort of perseverance and creativity that your child will need to manage their career.

So enjoy the back-to-school rush but don’t forget to begin the process of collaboratively supporting your college student in their post-graduation transition. Get your student some help, learn how to sell them, and connect them to your network – and don’t worry if they find themselves serving you food at your favorite restaurant – it will only be for a stint and if you work together now, they might be picking up the tab next year!