Boundaries between parents and their children evolve slowly over time. Up until a certain age, they are virtually non-existent— something you become acutely aware of in the diaper stage of your relationship.
As kids age, however, they seek independence from their parents. It’s a complicated dynamic. On the one hand, you want to respect their autonomy. On the other hand, you also have a strong parental urge to supply guidance.
It’s a complicated dynamic. One that parents and children all over the planet struggle with daily. How can you safely navigate it while helping your grown children with their job hunt?
In this article, we provide some tips that can be helpful for parents.
Establish a Clear Boundary
The first, and unquestionably, most important step, is to establish a very clear boundary. Ask your child what sort of support they would like to get from you as an adult. People waste a lot of time hinting around at what they want, or hoping that others will pick up on context clues.
It’s much more productive to ask a clear question and receive a clear answer. Understand, of course, that your child may say they don’t want any help at all. While this can be hard to hear, don’t take it personally. Most people establish parental boundaries not out of ill will, but simply because they feel the need to establish themselves independently.
Once a boundary has been set, you must stick to it.
Find Out What They Are Looking For
Here’s the important thing you need to understand about helping your adult offspring find a job— they probably aren’t giving you a carte blanche invitation to find opportunities for them. If they are interested in graphic design but you keep sending recruitment ads for marketing firms their way because you think it will lead to better long-term opportunities, that is going to turn into a source of tension over time.
Your job is to help them find positions they are interested in. It isn’t to influence the direction of their life.
Know How to Look
If you get the green light to help your child find a job, it’s time to start your search. If you want to be more than just superficially helpful, you need to be able to parse out the best possible opportunities. This will largely be a product of our previous point— understanding what your child is looking for in a job.
However, you should also take a moment to acquaint yourself with the modern job landscape. For example, you can find jobs today that are very competitive in the level of flexibility they allow their employees. Remote work. Flex hours. Four-day work weeks.
These are desirable perks that your child may appreciate having pointed out to them.
Consider Their Qualifications
Naturally, you also want to make sure that the listings you send their way are viable opportunities. If the job description reports that the company is only interested in people with an MBA, it won’t do your non-MBA holding child much good. Plus it may feel like a not-so-subtle hint that you think they should go back to school.
Look for Other Ways to Help
Looking for a new job is about more than just scanning constant listings. It’s also about preparing a really solid set of submission materials. Most successful applicants have several versions of their cover letter and resume so that they can appeal more readily to a wider range of employers.
Offer to help them out with editing their submission materials, or even their LinkedIn page. If you don’t have an editor’s eye, you can still help by pointing out places that will assist. For example, many communities will have career centers that help job seekers polish their submission materials.
Are there situations where it is appropriate to exert pressure?
Actually—yes! If you are financially supporting your adult child, then you do have a stake in their job hunt. In that case, you may find it appropriate to leverage a certain degree of pressure to encourage them along in their process.
It still isn’t appropriate to pressure them into specific jobs simply because you think that they could be a good fit. However, it may be sensible to help establish a timeline. “We are going to withdraw our financial support starting on X.”
Setting a hard date will help your adult child to understand the gravity of the situation. It may also just jumpstart them in the right direction. It’s not always possible to find a dream job right out of the gate. It is possible to emphasize that point without violating any important boundaries between you and your child.
It may be fair to say that this article, by virtue of its premise, describes a subtle tension that aging parents aren’t always comfortable acknowledging. Your kids don’t always need you the way you want to be needed. It’s painful but it’s also nothing new.
You remember the last time your child took a nap on your chest? Or the first time you had a full day to yourself, with your kids finally all enrolled in all-day school? How about when you dropped them off at college for the first time? Boy did the house sound quiet when you made it back home.
You’re going to make me cry.
But good things were always around the corner, weren’t they? Watching a human grow into independence is a parent’s pain and privilege. Your instinct may be to do everything you can for them, even now that they are grown, but remember that all the hard work you put in up until now was leading to this moment.
You raised them to grow into wise, self-sufficient adults. The job now is to support their choices, and step in only when they are comfortable with it.