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Tips for Talking About the Job Hunt

Allyson Letteri


“So, what are your plans after graduation?” 

The winter season may mean joy and merriment for many, but the period between November and January can be an stressful time, especially for college seniors, who often live in fear of being asked this exact question. Sure, there’s a long break from school to reconnect with friends, bond with loved ones, and — with any luck — do a few loads of laundry for free. However, it also provides ample opportunity for relatives to initiate the important, yet dreaded, career conversation.  

If this sounds at all familiar, you’ll be thrilled to hear that broaching the subject of job hunting doesn’t have to be a painful experience. A bit of preparation and a delicate hand make a world of difference when navigating what can be a stressful topic for both parent and young adult. If you’re hoping to kick off the career conversation with a college student in your life, simply keep three points in mind as a framework for your chat:

  1. Effective communication
  2. Supportive mentorship
  3. Experienced perspective

Using these to guide your discussion will help you steer clear of any perceived nagging and keep you safely within the “helpful, productive, and encouraging” zone.  

Communicate effectively.

Finding internships and jobs can be stressful for many young people and it is important for them to feel comfortable asking questions and having judgment-free conversations. 

A few things to discuss freely with your student to help them weigh the pros and cons of different opportunities:

  • Should your senior take the highest paying job or follow their passion? 
  • Can they live at home during the job search process? 
  • Should they take a job that pays less but provides valuable experience that will be advantageous in the future? 

In order to foster the most productive conversation with your college student, you can also consider exploring resources together. Sit down and peruse their university’s career services website — most colleges make it easy to access their professional development tools and tips. 

You can also work together to sift through job opportunities on platforms like Handshake, a leading career community for college students and new grads in the U.S. The sheer volume of open roles out there can be a major source of job hunt anxiety, so narrowing the scope to only show listings specifically meant for college students and new grads can help alleviate stress when starting the search. On Handshake, your student can indicate whether they’re a senior looking for a first full-time job or an underclassman seeking an internship or part-time work — filtering the job search makes the project feel much less daunting. 

Be a supportive mentor.

As your kids navigate the intricacies of finding internships and jobs, act as a mentor, offer advice when it is requested, and point them in the direction of helpful resources and tools, but let the young adult lead the process and be in charge. (As much as your own job hunt stories might feel like a good resource, remember that the market has changed a lot — a "back in my day" anecdote might spark more frustration than inspiration!)

If your college student isn’t quite sure what possibilities are out there for their major, interests, and experience level, try spinning your conversation into a fun exploratory activity. Read through descriptions of different job roles they might not have considered, or compare your respective results from a personality quiz (such as the Myers-Briggs test or enneagram type analysis) intended to guide their career thinking.    

Provide perspective. 

Young adults with little experience understandably believe the stakes are high when they make their first employment choices. Reassure them that choosing a job isn’t an irreversible decision. Help them understand that they will choose based on the best information at hand, but can always revisit and reevaluate their decisions in the future. 

Also remind your student that many if not most people try a couple different types of jobs early in their career to find what's the best fit, sometimes even within the same company.  Everything is a learning experience and helps them refine what they want to do next.

Your attitude and approach to this conversation can have a big impact. At the end of the day, thinking about the world of possibilities beyond their college campus should be fun for your young adult! Remember to assert your pride, positivity and belief in their potential. With you on their team and the right tools at their disposal, everything else will fall into place. 

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    Allyson Letteri is the VP of Marketing at Handshake, the leading career community for students. She began her career at the Boston Consulting Group in San Francisco and also worked at Intuit. Allyson holds a BS in Business Administration and BA in Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as well as an MBA from Stanford University.

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