We’ve all heard the phrase, “There’s light at the end of the tunnel” in one variant or another. The older that we get, the more we’re able to reflect back on all the pinpoints of light we’ve gazed upon as various phases of our lives came to a culmination. Whether it was that feeling of satisfaction you had after completing the chores your parents assigned or acing a test after studying for weeks, arriving at that moment when you come out of figurative darkness is a wonderful thing.
For the typical college student, that light is always centered on the day they turn their credit hours into a formal degree. As graduation day draws near, so too do countless other thoughts that race through every soon-to-be graduate’s mind — from finals and term papers to friendships and freedom. With all of these distractions, it’s no wonder that it’s difficult for many students to fathom the real-life challenges that are ahead.
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Whether you’re a parent, grandparent, sibling, or mentor, I’m willing to wager that you would love to see this transition play out as smoothly as possible for your student. Wondering how you can help without overstepping your bounds? Here are some of the suggestions I’ve offered to others in your shoes.
- Share Your Net. As a seasoned professional, you’re well aware of the importance of a strong network. I’m not suggesting you turn over your digital Rolodex, but rather think about how your connections may be able to provide value to your graduate. Consider reaching out to your network and introducing your student to those with real world insights. Connections such as these can provide the student with troves of information in a format that may be more digestible than having mom and dad sit down for a talk.
- Be a Trampoline. In other words, become a trusted advisor off whom they can bounce ideas. Offer yourself up as resource; too often we make the assumption that our availability is a known quantity — you need to let them know this in a very frank manner. Throw out the idea of mock interviews, post-interview debriefs, and general consultation. Remember, it’s easy to impart your wisdom, but sometimes it’s more advantageous to simply lend your ear.
- Stoke Their Fire. Unless you’re part of a very elite club, every one of us has received the dreaded call, letter or email informing us that we were not selected for a position. My father used to tell me that disappointment was part of life, but that I should never give up. I often credit his ability to help motivate me with the success I’ve achieved. Rejection isn’t fun — simply put, it is always a blow to the ego. As your graduate puts themselves out there for the market to evaluate, remember to continue with all the support and encouragement you can. No, you can’t storm through the double doors of corporate America (no matter how much you would like to) and demand satisfaction on your graduate’s behalf. But you can be the buoy that keeps them afloat when they feel they can no longer swim.
- Let Go of the Wheel. There will be times where you feel it is in your graduate’s best interest to take over at the helm. Don’t! Finding one’s self is an accomplishment in its own right. Definitely be there for them, but remember that they are in the driver’s seat, and your role is much more like the voice from the GPS — provide direction, but if they choose an alternate route, allow them to forge the new path.
We are all concerned for those we love. There will never be a simple answer, just as there will never be a single best path. You must rely on your senses, but turning to these tips as the foundation for your role as a graduate’s guide will assist you in the process. In life, we all turn to those with expertise and experience for guidance, and I commend those who accept the challenge. I’ll leave you with the advice of one of my favorite practitioners, Dr. Seuss: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
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Michelle Kruse has more than 10 years of hiring and recruiting experience and a background in coaching and leadership development. At ResumeEdge, Michelle recruits and hires resume writers, provides training and ongoing support, manages strategic partnerships and serves as a subject matter expert on the job search process.