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Help your grad get a great job

Finding employment is hard, but parents can give their children guidance. Jim Citrin, a Yahoo! Finance columnist, gives “Today” readers advice.
/ Source: TODAY

Good news for Class of ‘06: Employers estimate that hiring of recent college graduates will be up almost 14 percent, making this the best year to pound the pavement since 2001. But finding a job and starting a career is still hard work. Jim Citrin, an executive recruiter at Spencer Stuart and a columnist for Yahoo! Finance, was invited on “Today” to talk about how parents can help their graduates find work. We asked the show’s viewers to write in and ask Citrin if he had specific tips for them and their children. Here’s his advice:

Dear Jim: What boundaries should a parent observe, regarding advice, assistance, setting the alarm clock, etc., so he’s not nagging or pressuring the new grad, but being supportive and helpful? What reliable resources are available besides the university’s advisors? — Charlotte

Dear Charlotte: Every parent and child relationship is different and that influences the best role to play. I believe there is a spectrum of acceptable parental roles to play with your new graduate. On the more passive end is to be encouraging and supportive. An effective technique here could be to ask questions such as, “How are you thinking about figuring out what to do?” or “Which adults that you know are closest to role models for your career?” On the more active end of the spectrum, you can sit down with your child at the kitchen table and lay out an action plan together. Some new graduates appreciate their parents giving them mock interviews, although many find that awkward. There are many resources in the library or across the Internet. One place to start is a column that I just wrote on the topic.

Dear Jim: My daughter just finished her master's degree in urban planning and moved to New York City to live with a friend and try to find a job. She has her resume posted, and is actively looking for a job, but I don't think she's looking in the right places. How can I help? — Carissa

Dear Carissa: I suggest that your daughter take a fresh look at how she’s defining urban planning (assuming that is her field of interest) and then be much more creative to identify different paths into the field. For every field of interest there are literally dozens of different ways to enter the field.  Not that I’m an expert on urban planning, but these are the kinds of organizations to identify to get the creative juices flowing: planning boards at the city, county, or town level; consulting firms serving the government in urban planning; the municipal finance divisions of investment banks and commercial banks; urban planning trade publications or specialized web sites; urban planning trade associations; the universities or specialized schools that teach urban planning; journalism covering urban planning at the national, regional, or local level; real estate developers that work with urban planners, etc.

Dear Jim: After working and going to school part time, my 25-year-old son is graduating from college in August. He has not been a stellar student and has no idea what he wants to do. How can I guide him and help him find his “passion?” With no clear idea, he's thinking of taking the LSAT, but his grades will probably prevent him from being accepted to law school. Help! What do you suggest? — Anne

Dear Anne: Not everyone can graduate at the top of their class and come out and waltz into the ideal job. So he’ll have to decide for himself how badly he wants it. If he works hard at figuring out what to do and is energetic about pursuing the path then I believe that he will be able to take that important first step. The key to figuring out his passions and strengths are to be self aware. What are the patterns of his interests over the years? What are his hobbies? What classes did he find most interesting?  I think it is a bad idea to pursue law school because he has no other ideas. For one thing, law school is difficult and expensive both in hard dollars and opportunity cost of being out of the job market for three years. If a student does not want to be studying law, the chances are that he or she will be no closer to identifying his interests and strengths at the end of law school.  So now is the time to act. One technique to help your son figure out his passions is to collect a diverse stack of magazines a foot or two high. When he has some quiet time, have him go through and rip out any articles that catch his attention, without too much thought, and put them into a folder.  A day or two later, he should spread out the articles and put them into logical groupings. For many people who do this, clear patterns will emerge which will reveal a lot about what he is really interested in. Then follow the advice elsewhere on this site!

Dear Jim: Is it a bad idea for my daughter to take time off and travel and/or work abroad for four months? — Peggy

Dear Peggy: There is, of course, no right or wrong answer to this and what may be right for your daughter may be wrong for someone else’s son. So here are a couple of thoughts to keep in mind. The goal of the first few years of her career should be about discovery, what her interests are what she seems to do well in the workplace, what environments she likes to work in.  If international is an interest for her, then yes, it is a good idea to get out there and give it a try, although 4 months will go quickly. The flip side, however, is that the first job after college is important in creating momentum for one’s career. To travel and be away while her classmates will be starting in their jobs may make it more challenging to come back and find a job at as natural an entry point. Experiences abroad, in general, tend to be broadening culturally and intellectually and they teach young people how to be more self-sufficient. So, on balance I would lean toward encouraging her to make the trip.

Dear Jim: Our bright, talented but overwhelmed daughter graduated Sunday from Ohio State University with a degree in international studies. She speaks fluent French and passable Wolof, a language spoken in Senegal, where she completed a study abroad program. She wants to go to law school fall of 2007 to concentrate in social justice. She seems resigned to continuing to work at her restaurant job for the near future. What job seeking strategies do you have for someone like her with big dreams, but no defined skill? What kind of tangible assistance can her Dad and I provide her without rescuing or hovering — we want her to feel confident but she needs a plan and we need a plan as well. We are in the middle-income bracket, not well to do, but we can keep a net under her for awhile-help with car insurance, rent, etc. but we want her to become independent and gain the confidence that being independent brings. — Lee Ann

Dear Lee Ann: Your daughter’s language skills are most impressive and applying them along with law school in anticipation of working in such an important field as social justice is to be commended. However, just because it’s challenging to find a paying job in this field does not mean that she should throw in the towel and only work in the restaurant.  If she is sufficiently motivated, there are other ways to expand her experience, confirm her interest in this area and as a by-product enhance her ability to get into the best law schools.  For example, she could try to get a pro bono paralegal job in the public defender’s office to do research on social justice types of cases. Or she could spend some time during the day (especially if she’s working at night in the restaurant) sitting in court room proceedings to see the reality of the court system. There are certainly many not-for-profit organizations that also work toward social justice. With her language skills she could make a credible case for getting an internship there. Finally, she should identify conferences on the topic or online forums and participate so she can become a member of these communities. She does not have to wait until law school to start.