Great news: Your teenager has landed that first summer job or internship.
But what’s your role as a parent when the brand-new employee over sleeps, disagrees with her boss or leaves the house not exactly “dressed for success”?
Your impulse to run interference may be stellar, but too much involvement can torpedo your teen’s future, said Anne Brown, author of “Grad to Great: Discover the Secrets to Success in Your First Career.”
Take the son of a coworker at Brown’s previous employer. The teen earned an internship on his own merits, but “the parent was constantly asking the manager, ‘How’s it going? How is he doing?’” she said.
When it came time to decide whether he would get a full-time offer, it was determined that the interference was going to cause an issue.
“As a manager, you don’t want to be in the position of managing the employee and their parent,” Brown said.
Today’s parents and their children may be accustomed to frequent intervention and guidance, but the workplace still expects independence. The conflict may be most obvious in early careers and internships where your offspring is in a professional setting without a safety net for the first time.
So how involved should you become when your son thinks “casual Friday” means shorts and flip-flops at the law firm, or your daughter wants to wear her sleeveless, low-cut blouse to the accounting office?
It’s painful, but it may be best to let them fail. Employers expect interns and new hires to learn as they go, make mistakes, accept feedback and recover quickly.
Whatever you do, don’t be the mom who called a recruiter and asked for feedback about why her daughter didn’t get a job, Brown advised.
“The sentiment is good, but what she should have done is tell her daughter to ask for feedback,” rather than stepping in herself. “Giving people room to succeed on their own is huge,” she said.
Here’s some advice on doling out career counsel without crossing the line:
- “Parents can help their young adults learn the value of networking and building relationships,” said Seldric Blocker, director of talent acquisitions at NBCUniversal, which hires about 1,900 interns each year. Provide them with opportunities to practice the art of effective conversation, he advised. “A lot of coaching can occur at the dinner table and in social situations.”
- Talk to your teens before they start their first jobs, with reminders that their status has changed from student to employee, or camper to counselor. Kevin Austin, program director for Tom Sawyer Camps near Pasadena, Ca., said he often has to teach counselors-in-training how to appropriately ask for time off and address supervisors.
- Role-play assertiveness. “A lot of kids don’t know how to talk to their boss or coworkers,” said Mercedes Samudio, a parenting coach in Huntington Beach, Ca. “There is a social aspect of work that’s different from home or school. They may not realize that (appropriate) language, volume and time to be social are different.”
- Don’t ignore failures. Instead, give them tools to prevent or deal productively with them, Samudio said. If parents see that their young adults are arriving late or dressed inappropriately, let them know they may hear from the boss – and teach them how to handle that conversation.
Despite all the warnings about being overbearing, today’s parents “are going to continue to be heavily involved,” said Phil Gardner, who directs the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University. One way to help is to make sure your kids get career advice from professionals, such as campus career counselors or programs that offer training and orientation on professional development.
Getting job tips from someone other than mom and dad might make your teen more willing to accept it or even take the advice more seriously.