Getting help from your parents

I truly believe that people who are searching for a job need to use every resource available to them. It’s not enough to post your resume on your college career center’s website or on one (or even all) of the many job search sites and then just wait for the offers to come in. If you’re serious about starting a career with a good job, you’ll have to put in a lot of effort (for more about this, see my book’s Tip 49. Treat your job search like a job.) One of the most important things that job seekers need to do is build a network (see the 14 tips in Step 4. Create a Network), and in this post I want to talk about one crucial networking resource that many students are ignoring: their parents.

Mark Twain said, “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” Your parents may, similarly be able to astonish you as you work toward finding your way into your first job after college:

  • They may have friends, clients, or co-workers who can help you;
  • they may know people who work at a company where you would like to work;
  • they may be able to connect you with people who are doing the type of work you want to do so you can conduct information interviews;
  • they may belong to civic, social, religious, or political organizations with chapters for young adults that you can join to expand your network;
  • they may be able to help you decipher job ads to determine if you meet a sufficient number of requirements to apply; and
  • they may be able to help keep you from getting discouraged.

However, you may want to think carefully about asking one of your parents to review your resume, cover letter, or application materials. I am not suggesting that your parents will intentionally steer you wrong, but there are two reasons why I think that asking for that type of help is not a good idea:

  1. Your parents my be too close to you, and care too much about you, to give you an honest critique. They may be more concerned with your feelings than with ensuring that your work is appropriate and acceptable. I’ve heard stories about students who argued with their writing instructors or career counselors when given advice about revising their resume because “My mom said it was really good!”
  2. Your parents may not be aware of the different requirements for application materials in different disciplines. If your father is a doctor and your mother is a lawyer, and you want to get a job as a civil engineer, they may not be familiar with the kind of content and experience you need to emphasize. If your father is a butcher and your mother is a day-care worker, and you want a professional career, they may have even less experience with the requirements of the field you want to enter.

My advice about this has nothing to do with your parents’ intelligence, intentions, or concern. It has to do with experience, and they just may not have the type of experience that is going to allow them to provide you with the best advice about revising written application materials. When it comes to ensuring that your application materials are appropriate for the job you want to apply for, trust someone with expertise in the field of human resources, career counseling, business writing, or any of your professors who required you to write a resume as a course assignment. (You can also get advice about this from several tips and appendices in my book!)

Your parents can be extremely valuable resources, but it’s up to you to distinguish between the areas where their help can benefit you and the areas where you can be thankful for their encouragement while seeking professional assistance.