Parenting Your Young Adult Through Their First Employment Experiences
First Employment Experiences
As the Director of a university based program for students with disabilities, I work with recent graduates and parents as they begin to search for their first “real jobs.” This is an exciting time and kicks off the next stage of their lives. This is also a bumpy process filled with many starts, stops and detours along the way. I often compare it to taking a long road trip together.
As parents, we often feel hopeful, frustrated and confused at times during the job search process. Unfortunately, the control of this hiring process is completely with employers.
Your young job seeker will need your support and encouragement throughout. The interviewing process is one of life’s most stressful situations, particularly for those students with social anxiety or communication issues. I think any interview can be helpful in some way. A lesson can be learned. It can be extremely discouraging, but each and every contact and interaction can lead to others. Helping your son or daughter analyze each interview and to learn from it is essential. It is also critical to help him or her to remain positive the key is to keep moving forward.
I have found the most successful parents have several qualities in common. These parents allow their daughter or son to focus on their first work experience as a stepping stone where they can learn the fundamentals of work. These first entry-level positions are invaluable. New employees quickly learn just how different paid employment is from school and unpaid internships. These new workers will often be asked to work nights and weekends. Many positions do not offer benefits including paid vacation time for many months or even a year. Parents need to keep this in mind and not expect them to be available for vacations as they were during school. No more Spring Break!
Encourage young workers to learn new skills
These first positions each teach many lessons and often there will be some discomfort. Powering through the uncomfortable times will make them a better employee and allow them to continue on their career path. They may re-evaluate the concept of “dream job ” as they travel along this course once or maybe many times. I often tell students they may have an easier time figuring out which jobs they don’t want to do versus those jobs they do during this early employment period. Encourage your young worker to learn a new skill in each position they hold and create a figurative tool box. These skills may include arriving to work on time and in uniform, proper self-care, working as a team member and being flexible. As the young employee builds their resume they should attempt to show longevity by staying at a job for at least 6 months, and ideally, – a year. This demonstrates their loyalty and dedication. The added benefit is that it will attract many more interviews.
At times these entry-level positions may seem rather thankless; they pay close to minimum wage and may not offer benefits. Try to keep in mind that they are providing your young worker with scheduled productive time where they can develop a routine and feel a sense of accomplishment every day at work. Encourage them to see the positives in their situations. They are now beginning to juggle many responsibilities in their day.
New employees will make mistakes and you as parents can allow them to grow from these situations. Although tempting, contacting an employer yourself on behalf of your son or daughter is never the answer. Often new employees forget to take a day off for a family event and not all employers are able to accommodate last-minute requests. Try to be flexible and encourage your young worker to ask for help when they need it. Remember, we all have bad days at work and turning these days around is the key to success. Often mistakes are the most memorable ways we learn. Let that car run out of gas!
Work is one of the biggest steps toward ultimate independence. Try to consistently push them to handle uncomfortable situations at work directly. Learning to advocate for them selves may be the greatest skill they could learn. Many of my alumni have risen through their career ladder faster because they were comfortable speaking to their supervisor and coworkers appropriately. You can often help them script these conversations or emails, but allow them to have those conversations. Parents can help to pave the path for these young new workers but always remember to slide over to the passenger seat and let them drive the car and reach their destination.
Krista Di Gregorio is the Director of Employment Training Services at Lesley University Threshold Program which is a college-based post-secondary program helping students with a wide variety of disabilities transition into the world of work and independent living. Ms. Di Gregorio has a Bachelor degree in business administration with a concentration in human resources from SUNY Buffalo and a Master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling from Northeastern University.
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This post originally appeared on our May/June 2017 Magazine