How to Help Your College Child Start Their Career

How to Help Your College Child Start Their Career

Yes, it’s tough getting a student away at college to listen to you. Even tougher when it’s about the F word. Future that is (but not ruling out the challenge to restrain from using the other one).

We as a society have placed so much focus on getting into a “good school” that we have lost focus on the future that lies beyond college. College is a wonderfully enlightening time but it’s four expensive years that do little to prepare you for the next 40 years beyond a diploma, GPA figure, and a hope & pray alumni community development strategy.

Tips to Help Your Child Start a Career

So, what can you do to make an impact in your teen/new adult’s life? Here are 5 tips to consider in chronological order:

1. Get Them Started Before They “Need” To

Looking for an internship in March will not garner your child much attention because they’re lost in the pack. A sea of students emerge from winter hibernation to ask people for help finding jobs. Do not fall into this trap. Not only is it desperate and commonplace but it is also highly entitled as it places a burden on many of your friends and family.

If you start early, not only will you be able to stand out from the pack but you will also have time to cultivate authentic relationships where you get important perspective, advice and recommendations. A few authentic conversations and bam — your son or daughter now has someone in their corner rooting for them if not mentoring or sponsoring them!

Look to have them connect professionally at the end of their freshman year. They can share their experiences adjusting to college (bonus points if they are talking to an alum!) and develop a network for sophomore year. Who knows? You may get lucky and they hit something in the near-term. That’s the paradox of networking: when you look longterm, people are more ready to help you in the near(er) term.

Tip: Your student’s career services office can help them find internships and networking contacts.

2. Teach Them the Basics of LinkedIn

Working with students it never ceases to amaze me how little some colleges, career centers, and mentors/recruiters educate them on the importance of LinkedIn. There is an overwhelming focus on their resume (and even there many essentials are still missing) and people lose sight of the bigger picture. Yes, resumes are important but they are table-stakes. Unless you are an elite student at an elite university then resumes are not your main differentiator.

Chances are if your son/daughter is the 4.0 GPA at an Ivy League school, you’re not reading this anyhow. So you need to take some sage baseball advice and “hit em where they ain’t” if you’re looking to differentiate in today’s competitive clamoring for attention.

You can start by having them add their relevant courses, a professional photo, a connectable background photo and some basic bullets about the jobs they’ve held previously.

3. Shift Their Scrolling

It’s no secret Gen Z is on their phone. A lot.

Studies from GenHQ and a study cited in the Washington Post show the average GenZer (or perhaps more appropriately, iGenerationer) hovers a little north of 5 hours/day and over 10% spend 15+ hours/day on their phone. Put another way, 1 in 8 Gen Z students spends almost every waking minute of their day on their phone. Getting your teen to get off their phone would be like — check that — WORSE than — pulling teeth.

So what can you do? Get them to follow (and make sure they don’t “mute”) important personal & skill development resources on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and more. Accounts such as

  • Khan Academy
  • TechCrunch
  • Investopedia
  • Forbes
  • Joinhandshake
  • Hubspot Academy
  • Edxonline
  • Fast Company

are just a few of many accounts that bridge the gap of relevant development and aesthetic appeal/pithy youthful quips to make for a fair compromise for your child.

Note: Even if they don’t actively seek out the pages, they will appear on their homepage and stories to subtly (and subconsciously) benefit them come networking & interview time.

4. Introduce New Apps

So now that they’ve compromised by following some new accounts, perhaps you can test your luck by getting them onto some new apps. They can still stay on their phone so you don’t have to worry about that dangerous “trying to steal a cub from a mama bear” moment.

Some good ones to suggest to your teen are:

  • TED (fka Ted Talks)
  • Blinkist (12-20 minute book synopses)
  • Lucid (adult picture book summaries)

These apps will enable your child to develop themselves in less than 20 minute segments and give them another talking point/credibility factor in their discussions with prospective employers.

5. Minimize the ATS Black Hole

For those asking what’s an ATS, it’s an Applicant Tracking Software. At many employers it may as well be synonymous with “Black Hole.”

As someone who used to work at the world’s leading ATS, I can tell you firsthand that these are valuable for weeding out candidates, not recognizing stand-out candidates. Unless you want to get into a whole different discussion on maximizing keywords in your resume and then it COULD help. Point being, once a job is online, it’s going to attract many eyes and you’re likely one to be excluded as opposed to included. Why? On average, 250 other people have applied for that same job.

Not daunting enough? Even if you think- “Sure, I can beat 249 other people”, upwards of 85% of jobs are filled via networking. All that work for someone to circumvent you…it’s not a good feeling.

So what can you do? For starters you can refer to points 1-4 and you can help your son or daughter focus on the factors that will frame their future. 

Alex Dripchak began his sales career at Oracle, where he was the first person ever to be a sales manager and outside producer by the age of 25. Today, he serves as a senior adviser at Mercer, a global HR consulting leader in talent, health, retirement, and investments. Additionally, he is co-founder of Commence, a careers academy for college students, and the author of “100 Skills of the Successful Sales Professional” (Business Expert Press, June 2021). He lives and works in New York City.

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  • August 3, 2021