The ties that bind

I enjoy talking with students, both at the secondary and post-secondary level, about how to navigate through the next stages in their lives, particularly with respect to trying to get into the workplace.

The way I see it, getting your first part-time or real job is a challenging, confusing, and intimidating process. I mean, they may have to deal with HR people who aren’t as understanding as me.

I try to coach students, but I stress that they need to be involved in any decisions that are being made that affect them and their career. They need to ask questions, be aware, and for the love of pete, do NOT keep looking at your phone.

For the most part students are receptive to any advice or suggestion. They may not actually take it, but at least they have the decency to smile and nod at the appropriate times. Seriously though – they want to learn, but some (many) are being held back by the one thing that should actually be propelling them.

Their parents.

I’m not going to go making the usual Generation-alizations. (I am Gen X after all and completely skeptical of labels. Oh, and I’m a slacker.) No, I’m just going to go broad stroke and say that many of the parents of college/university age kids are doing their children a huge disservice. Huge.

Because there’s being involved and then there’s being “involved”.

Coaching your kid – sitting and talking with them about potential courses to take, how to handle an interview, a new job, take responsibility…that’s being involved. The right kind of involved.

Choosing your kids’ courses, emailing employers on their behalf , asking HR questions for them, and driving, not navigating their future, is also being involved. The not-so-good kind of involved. The kind of involved that leaves your kid frozen in time and unable to take charge of their own life.

I have seen this in both my professional and personal life. Teens and young adults who are unable to talk to other adults, will not make a move or decision without checking in with their parents, and are so unsure of what to do they are almost paralyzed.

I have seen students practically wither with embarrassment as their well-meaning parent planned and organized their part-time job, much in the same way that their parent planned and organized the never-ending play dates, extra-curricular activities, get ahead tutor sessions, and year round sports conditioning.

Which is kind of ironic since wasn’t the purpose of all that extra stuff was so that your kid would be better prepared to handle the competitive world on their own?

Note to the parents: Stop.

Your kid will make mistakes. They are supposed to make mistakes. They may even make the same ones that you did, but they will definitely find a few new ones too. They need to feel the frustration of uncertainty and the challenge of working for it. And they need to feel the sense of pride and accomplishment of knowing they can make it.

Note to the students: Start.

You need to stand up to your parents and take control of your future. You need to listen to them, but then insist that you need to do it on your own. Thank you parents for the support, but then get them to back off. You need to accept that in a year, your boss won’t give a shit that your mom thinks you are working too hard, that you don’t know how to balance your personal budget and are behind in paying your bills. Face it, your parents may not know what’s best for you. There will come a point when you will look around at your life, and you will want to know that what you have…it’s yours.

As a parent, I get it. But I’m resisting the temptation to “strongly suggest” a course of action.

As HR, I also get it. But I am hiring someone and I need to know that they can do more than just “work ndependently”…I need to know that they can actually “function independently”.


2 thoughts on “The ties that bind

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