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How to help your grad face a tough job market

Lynn Berger
Lynn Berger Katherine Waldman

By Lynn Berger

As a parent, you watched your child face a rigorous course of study during college and now, he or she is encountering an uncertain future. Your son or daughter endlessly dreamed of achieving their independence and presently they may be a statistic -- an unemployed college graduate. How do you help them overcome falling into a slump?

You need to feel that they are making their best possible presentation through a well-rehearsed, yet sincere "pitch" and have an effective resume and cover letters. In addition, they should have a vibrant Internet presence (e.g. Linked-In, Facebook, etc.) with information that could be posted on the front page of your local newspaper. Finally, they must possess excellent interviewing skills that will enable them to make an excellent first impression.

Sometimes, it is advisable to have your child work with a professional who can provide objective feedback. It might be helpful to hire a career counselor or coach. Additional resources include visiting or contacting their college career counseling center (even after graduation) or the local chapter of their alumni association.

However, most importantly, you need to supply support to help your child develop productive ways to deal with rejection and vulnerability.

As a parent of a college graduate, you may have your own feelings of disappointment and frustration, so you need to be careful not to make a challenging situation worse!

How can you help your child avoid the emotional letdown?

First, give them credit for trying. Finding a well-suited position is an iterative process that can, by itself, be a full-time job. View each success (no matter how trivial) as an accomplishment, as opposed to focusing solely on the end-result. Point out to them that, many times, the process has pleasant and intangible outcomes one never envisioned. For example, I know several people who made lifetime friendships when looking for work through active networking, and they have continued these friendships for many years.

Secondly, urge your son or daughter to take breaks and pace themselves. Also, do not let them get too isolated and spend too much time behind the computer. Try to lend support and enable them to use your professional and family connections to schedule a wide range of informational or exploratory interviews.

Third, provide an environment that bolsters their physical well-being in terms of healthy daily habits. A person who takes care of themselves can be viewed as valuable to their potential employer. This is an excellent time to be fully-immersed in exercise and other leisure activities. Since you serve as a role model, you also need to maintain a steady daily physical exercise routine.

Finally, remind your child to use their time wisely. These transitional points give them the opportunity to spend quality time with family and friends that are not available when they are a student or have a full-time job.

One of the most interesting results of a job search is that one achieves success in ways they never thought possible. Job offers often come from the least likely sources. The individuals and circumstances your child counted on for support may be the most disappointing, but other opportunities that were never expected may reveal themselves. Try to use examples of how this may have occurred in your own life.

For example, early on in my career, I sent out many resumes and saw an advertisement for a job I was about to ignore. Since I was sending resumes out all day, I decided to send one more, and to my surprise, that was the job offer I got and subsequently accepted.

Gently encourage your child to embrace this activity and to try to enjoy the process. Looking for work is full of challenges, and they should not berate themselves if they can honestly say they are taking this work seriously.

Last, be patient with your college graduate and your household's expectations, as their hard work should be rewarded.

Lynn Berger, MA,Ed.M, is a licensed mental health counselor, national certified counselor and professional certified coach. In addition to her private practice, Lynn has authored a book titled, "The Savvy Part-Time Professional-How to Land, Create, or Negotiate the Part-Time Job of Your Dreams."

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