Networking Begins at Home
“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is an old adage used to describe the job search process of yesteryear. This credo may have been used positively by those who had the right connections (often via parents or friends of parents) and with disgruntled frustration by those who possessed skill and expertise, but few connections.
The job search is, as it always has been, much more complex than this well-worn phrase. However, there are elements of truth I’d like to encourage parents to embrace. Believe it or not, parents have a most fundamental influence upon the success of an adult child as a potential employee regardless of their chosen field or vocation.
George Fox grads one year out consistently report the No. 1 avenue of finding desirable, full-time employment is through networking (family, acquaintances, alumni). According to Don Asher, a well-known employment and grad school transitions specialist, 70 percent or more of the job market is hidden. In other words, a large majority of positions are filled by individuals who have made their interest and qualifications known to the employer directly or indirectly through someone who knows someone who knows when a suitable job opening surfaces.
“How can I help?” you ask. I know that you are asking this because I am the parent of two college students myself. We want to help, but sense they do not want our help. Another concern is that our students are choosing careers we’ve never even heard of. You may think that because you lack connections in the industry or field they are entering, you can’t help them connect with it.
But back up a little and you can. It’s like a thousand other things you’ve done as a parent but a little easier because they’re adults. The beauty is they’ll never know you are helping.
Help them become comfortable with networking. Introduce them to people you know wherever you can, modeling appropriate professional etiquette. Expect the same from them and treat your grown son or daughter and their friends as you treat your esteemed colleagues.
Let them know you respect them and believe they are capable in their field and in the job search. The most common style of interview conducted by employers currently is the “behavioral interview.” The candidate needs to be able to relate their transferrable skills for the position by giving examples of experiences where those skills were developed and exercised previously. As trusted advocates, parents provide a relaxed venue for students to learn to articulate their skills and qualifications, where and how they were acquired, why those skills are important, and how they can be beneficial in the future.
A visiting recruiter recently confided with the George Fox Career Services staff: “Your students need to be able to speak more confidently about themselves.”
Thank goodness we’ve taught them humility. But job-hunting is probably one of the most daunting tasks they will ever face on their own. Give them a hand-up by conversing with them regularly and in depth about their interests and plans for the future. Ask questions like “What do you think about this?” “That’s amazing! Where did you learn how to do that?” “Who do you know that does this?” “How did they get there?” “Who do I know you’d like to meet?” “What are the skills you are working on to become a …?” “What kind of place do you want to work?”
Start networking with them personally. If you don’t know what they are talking about, ask more questions.
Keep your eyes open for situations and organizations where your son or daughter might utilize their gifts on behalf of others. You can catch their vision and passion in those conversations you’ve had and encourage without pushing. Volunteering, special projects for family and friends, temporary employment, professional and service clubs will pack the resume, but more importantly will connect him or her with mentors and colleagues. Their experience will let them shine in your eyes and provide instances of skill-building to refer to when networking and interviewing. Again, using open-ended questions like the ones above, parents can nurture confidence for networking and interviewing by allowing students to practice articulating how each experience has shaped them.
As you network with the bundle of potential you brought into the world 20 or so years ago, why not share different scenarios you have faced and solicit their input? Utilize their advice and report back to them the results. Finally, enjoy every minute of talking with this unique young adult in whose growth you’ve invested so much. You will immediately receive a return of inspiration. I guarantee you will learn something and enrich your own relationships and network.
Career Services: Vocation and Calling Fitness
Stevens 220, 503-554-2332