Sep. 16, 2013 at 9:14 AM ET
Here’s one way not to get ahead in your career: Have your parent lodge a complaint with human resources because your manager failed to give you a promotion.
Here’s another: Have your dad conduct a phone interview for you.
The weak economy has made it tough for many millennials to get started in their careers – or even get out of the house – and that’s leaving many young adults leaning more heavily than ever on Mom and Dad.
Of course, parents offer valuable advice on everything from what to wear to an interview to how to deal with a bad boss. But, experts caution, the growing trend toward parents taking a very active role in their adult children’s careers also can really backfire.
For one thing, many companies are looking for independent thinkers who can solve problems on their own.
“If you want to onboard quickly and you want to be a star right from the beginning, don’t bring your parents,” said JoAnn Corley, chief executive of the consulting firm The Human Sphere, based in Atlanta, Ga.
For another, Mom and Dad may not always have the best advice, especially if their children are in a different field or at a very different point in their careers.
“Sometimes parents will project onto their kids their previous work experience or their jaded experience with new bosses,” Corley said.
She recently heard the story of the young, promising employee who asked for a promotion after a year on the job. When the manager told the employee that a promotion was still far off, the employee lodged a complaint with human resources.
That didn’t work either, so then the employee’s mom tried calling both the manager and the human resources department. Although the young employee had shown promise and had been a good worker, the experience soured everyone and the young hire was eventually let go.
Jamie Seward, a regional recruiting manager with the engineering and technology division of recruiting firm Adecco, said parents can help their young adult children by being supportive and offering guidance in the job search process. But in most cases, young job-seekers need to draw the line when their parents start trying to negotiate for them.
“I think when it can hurt the candidates’ chances (is) when the parents are doing more of the communication for them,” he said.
He recalled a case when a candidate’s father conducted a phone interview for a job candidate – a fact that became painfully obvious when the actual candidate showed up for the in-person interview.
Seward, who is based in Louisville, Ky., said the candidate quickly fessed up that his dad had been impersonating him.
“I was just pretty frank with him,” Seward said. ‘I said, ‘I think that situations like that might actually be hurting your chances to land the job that you want.’”
As so-called helicopter parents age, it can be very difficult to keep them from getting involved in their kids’ careers – and human resources experts say many young workers also seem to welcome the involvement.
Rory Trotter, an HR generalist with a large agriculture processing company, said he thinks more companies are recognizing that trend and trying to get ahead of it.
“You have to manage that relationship,” he said.
Some companies now offer more structured events for parents, such as Google’s take your parents to work day.
Trotter, who is based in Milwaukee, said his company has a day when interns’ parents can come in and take a look at where their kids will be living.
“I think it is good to formalize, and by that I mean that you control the process,” Trotter said.
It also can avert the kind of situation that Trotter said they faced one year, when a parent called to ask how one of the interns was going to get to work.
Apparently, the child didn’t have a car and hadn’t thought about how to get from corporate housing to the office.
Another time, a parent called the company after the child had accepted a job offer to try to negotiate a six-month review for a raise.
“I think that the pro of having a parent that’s really in your corner there is it makes you a lot more likely to succeed,” Trotter said.
But Trotter said that when a parent goes beyond coaching and is actually calling the company on a child’s behalf, that can start to hurt the child’s reputation. It also can keep the child from developing the independence needed to succeed.
“If you reach a point where you’re 30 years old and the parent is really helicopter parenting, then that’s an issue,” he said.
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