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Parents: do they help or hinder when you apply for jobs?

As a parent of three 20-something daughters, I admit to having helped them out when applying for jobs when asked. Unsurprising given my day job as a careers coach and employability specialist. Parents helping their kids apply for jobs is on the rise according to a survey from CV-Library. It finds that 55% of 18-34-year-olds have relied on their parents for help with job applications and CV writing. This post looks at some of the pros and cons.

Whose career advice?

Undeniably, it’s tough being a young person trying to find your way after full-time education. The official statistics say there are currently 568,000 unemployed 16-24-year-olds in the UK. That’s a conservative figure (sic) given the hidden NEET (not in education, employment or training) problem is nearer to 1.3 million according to a study by Impetus PEF.

Is it any wonder in the absence of effective face-to-face careers advice in our schools in recent years? Where does a young person turn to these days?  Clearly, a well-intentioned parent is going to step in if their son or daughter seeks help. They have an advantage in knowing them better than most. If working, the parent can tap into the recruitment practices of their employer or from their recent experience of applying for jobs. Alternatively, it can be the blind leading the blind.

Self-help and professional guidance

parentsHowever, there is a big difference between helping your offspring with applying for a job and giving them career advice about options and pathways. The online world is awash with ‘how to write a CV’ tips. Researching online can take you some way. However, the volume of information is huge and the advice can be contradictory. How do you know what is helpful or unhelpful?

Technology is rapidly changing the world of work and recruitment practices constantly evolve. How many parents will have experience of a video interview or video CV? Careers advisers are becoming coaches and signposters because half the jobs of the next 5 to 10 years don’t exist yet. Increasing automation of roles is likely to be a game-changer.

Parents’ emotional attachment and objectivity

Any strength you overplay can become a weakness. Meaning well can lead to over-emphasising your child’s strengths and avoiding glaring weaknesses that need addressing. And vice versa. The ‘I know what’s good for you’ mentality creeps in based on what worked for a parent of a different generation. Good parental intentions can turn to control freakery and disempowerment.

What if the young person doesn’t want parental support and they insist on involvement? Being emotionally involved can result in pushing too much and fraught relationships when the listening stops. I’ve been called in as an objective outsider more than once by concerned parents and say some things they have said to their son or daughter. However, the young person listens better simply because you are not their parent.

Finding the balance

The reality is often about getting the balance right between self-help by young people taking personal responsibility to build self-reliance, with appropriate parental support and the support of professional guidance towards authoritative sources of information. A combination of relevant and timely push and pull.

How do young people become conscious and informed consumers of job and career advice? If we really want to make a step change, would it not be better if our education system equips young people with job and career navigating capabilities as part of the curriculum?

What are your views on the role of parents helping their kids apply for jobs?

David Shindler

David Shindler

David Shindler is founder of the Employability Hub online learning centre, Director of Learning to Leap and widely respected in the industry as an employability expert. David understands the ‘soft’ skills, attitudes and behaviours needed by employers and can help people improve them to get the job they want.

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2 Comments

  • MaddieReply

    Thanks for sharing this insight, David. I am currently a junior in college and found this information quite helpful. It is interesting hearing from a parent’s point of view, and not my parents specifically, on the job search process in their opinion and how they feel they can help. I agree that balance is key during this process. Finding a balance with support, independence, and encouragement is definitely sometimes difficult to achieve, but ends up being the most helpful in the long run.

    Madeleine Mills, anticipated graduation May, 2018
    Freeman School of Business/Tulane University

    • David ShindlerReply

      It’s a tricky one, Maddie, and can get more complicated when parents are divorced or separated. Thanks for contributing!