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When Plans Change Senior YearSydnei Kaplan
My daughter, a college senior, anxiously awaits word from a number of jobs and programs she’s applied to in anticipation of her ever-nearing graduation. She sends me emails, texts and occasionally even calls before or after interviews or as notification dates approach, sometimes looking for information or guidance, occasionally asking me to eyeball the draft of a letter.
With so many balls in the air, she’s now concerned with how they will land. What happens if she doesn’t hear from her first choice position first? How will she respond to a good job with a salary that is too low to live on? Although she’s gotten jobs before, the stakes this time around, as she prepares for her post-college life, feel bigger.
I feel the pressure too, wondering how I can best help. “Ideally, a parent’s role is to support their student through this process, which can feel a lot like a roller coaster ride,” says Anna Bray, a career and executive coach with Jody Michael Associates, a coaching company with offices in Chicago and Atlanta. “Parents help most when they are available as a sounding board for their student’s ideas, letting their student drive conversations around career.”
Still, there are specific things that come up when your student receives an actual offer. For parents, especially those who haven’t applied for a new job in many years, understanding the changes in business etiquette is important. Technology has impacted so much, particularly how students interact with potential employers. How should my daughter be in touch regarding an offer? “We advise clients to respond to any communication from a potential employer in the way the employer initiates the exchange,” Anna explained. “If you are unclear, it’s always better to ask which method of communication the employer prefers rather than to guess or assume!”
When looking for their first job, many students feel compelled to accept the first offer that comes their way. That’s a mistake! Students shouldn’t sell themselves short, settling for a low-ball offer or a job that is misaligned with their interests and abilities. — Anna Bray, Jody Michael Associates
When applying for a job, your student may have questions or want to negotiate the terms of the position, but during an interview is not the right time. “The best time to negotiate is after you’ve been offered the job — but before you accept it,” says Anna. “In addition to salary, students can ask for other types of compensation: vacation days, flex time and reimbursement for professional development programs or networking events, for example.” Parents have perspective students may lack, real world experience to help think through things like living expenses or advancement opportunities, factors that may not come to mind when your student is evaluating a job offer and items to discuss with a potential employer.
The harder questions that may come up for your student are the big ones, like, is this job right for me, or, is it alright to say no? Parents can be valuable in this area too. “Ask your student questions,” recommends Anna. “Are they energized, motivated, and excited to do the work? Do they have ideas on how to do the job well?” Ask in ways that allow your student to explore the things that excite and even concern them about a position.
Most difficult for some parents is not taking over their student’s decision making process. “Well-intentioned parents often helicopter their children, unwittingly sending them the message that the parent doubts their student’s capabilities, “ Anna cautions. “We advise parents to encourage their sons and daughters, but to let them navigate the trials — and triumphs — of their own journey.” I remember one parent who strongly nudged their student away from Marine Biology without understanding what that could look like as a career, and into Hotel and Restaurant Management because it was clearly a growing field, evidenced by all the new properties in construction near their home. The student tried but had no passion for the work, leaving the profession and finding it was too late to go back to the field that had first inspired their imagination.
Anna offers another cautionary thought. “When looking for their first job, many students feel compelled to accept the first offer that comes their way. That’s a mistake! Students shouldn’t sell themselves short, settling for a low-ball offer or a job that is misaligned with their interests and abilities.”
My daughter, home for her spring break, checks her email constantly and never leaves her phone out of reach, worried she’ll miss that important job offer and see her future crumble before her eyes. Although I try to explain this isn’t how things work, her concern reflects how important getting the right job is to her after she graduates. I’m supportive and considerate of her concerns, understanding we’re not going to have a lot of fun over this vacation. In the future, though? I can’t wait to see her new office, wherever it may be.