Are "helicopter" kids more successful?

(MoneyWatch) When moms write their kids' college essays and pitch a fit in order to get a grade raised, that may well improve a young person's chances of getting into the school of their choice. But will that make you more successful at work?

Blogger Lenore Skenazy, of Free Range Kids, fielded a question from a parent who was seeing these so-called helicoptered kids getting into better schools. Was she doing it wrong, the commenter wanted to know?

Not as far as I'm concerned. I don't want to work with the person that still needs his or her hand held, whether by mom and dad or by the manager. And it's not just hand-holding that helicopter parenting leads to, according to some experts. Writing in The Atlantic, therapist Lori Gottlieb describes treating a young woman who is psychologically struggling despite having no identifiable problems. That was a common condition for many young adults, she writes:
Sitting on my couch were other adults in their 20s or early 30s who reported that they, too, suffered from depression and anxiety, had difficulty choosing or committing to a satisfying career path, struggled with relationships, and just generally felt a sense of emptiness or lack of purpose—yet they had little to quibble with about Mom or Dad. 
Mom and Dad had always been there for these young adults, and that translated in an ability to make it in the real world. 

Parents, of course, want the best for their children. And that means encouraging -- and sometimes pushing -- them to get into top colleges, even if Mom has to "edit" that essay or fight with a teacher to raise a grade.

Of course, getting into a good college is important (especially if you're pursuing a career that requires a four-year degree). But let me tell you a little secret about hiring. When you are coming straight out of school, your college matters somewhat. Some companies only recruit from certain colleges and universities, and if you didn't graduate from one of those institutions it may be more difficult to find a job in your field. For instance, some top consulting firms and Wall Street firms recruit almost exclusively from elite schools. Other than that? Very few employers care.

Furthermore, very few people will ever fixate on your alma mater. Once you're out of high school, you stop looking at college rankings. So one small liberal arts school means nothing more to the recruiter or hiring manager than any other small liberal arts school. I once noted that a new colleague had a degree from the State University of New York Geneseo. "Great school!" I said, because it is a great school and I know this because I used to live nearby. "Thank you!" she said, "Nobody here has ever even heard of it!" We were in Pennsylvania, which is right next to New York where this great school is located, and nobody was impressed.

Now, they were impressed with her, because she was awesome. But it wasn't her awesome college that got her the job. It was her skills. 

I also don't want to work with someone who feels entitled to more than they are actually entitled to. For instance, I received an email request yesterday from an MBA student who wanted me to write up an essay on the topic, "Job enrichment is an exploitative technique used to get people to work harder’. Do you agree with this statement? Why? Discuss." Ironically, he specified in his email that I should do this without plagiarizing as that was a requirement for the assignment. Why on earth he thought this was an appropriate thing to do probably relates to parents who taught him he deserved it. 

I don't want to work with someone whose father follows up after the job interview. (This actually happened to me, personally. When dad asked why sonny didn't get the job I responded, "Well, for starters, you're following up for him.")  I'm not alone. Recruiters talk about the parent problem. Professors talk about the parent problem. We don't want to hold anyone's hand, and you're certainly not entitled to hand-holding. The reason I had rejected the young man in the first place was that he showed a lack of initiative. And why should he have initiative if dad was always doing it for him?

A helicopter mother caused a LinkedIn career expert to actually withdraw a job offer altogether, after mom quizzed her about the job. After all, the last thing a manager wants is mom and dad looking over her shoulder. 

What do good managers look for? People who can solve their own problems, look at things in different ways, take responsibility for their own actions and, above all, work hard.

So while your non-helicoptered kids may not have all the i's dotted and t's crossed to get into the best university, if they can work hard and solve their own problems, they'll be fine and, I would bet, more successful than the kid who still needs to call mom.

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