Boomers: do your children need career counseling?

There’s no denying that many of our twenty-something children are under-employed. Looking at Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for adults aged 20-24 was 13.5% in July 2012, which is considerably higher than the unemployment rate for adults over 55 (6.2% in the same time period). The question is, what’s going on? Is the job market for recent college grads really challenging, or is there something amiss with the younger generation?

As boomers, our tendency is to assume that this is a generational problem. Many of us have a hard time understanding why our children are so comfortable lounging on the couch while we head off to work every day. After all, we’ve seen our fair share of recessions and job trouble in our lifetimes, and we’ve managed to persevere. Why can’t these kids get it together?

In defense of under-employed twenty-somethings everywhere, I will say that high unemployment rates among recent college grads are partially a result of a slow economy. Still, many of these young adults have trouble finding a job because they’re a bit lost – they just don’t know what to do. If your child is one of these under-employed “millennials” or “echo boomers,” this article is for you.

How Are Twenty-Somethings Different Than Boomers When it Comes to Finding a Job?

Without slandering all members of the millennial generation, I would say that many of these young adults struggle to find a job for the following reasons:

  • Generally speaking, this younger generation seems to be less career focused. While I’m not sure this is a bad thing (many millennials intrinsically understand the importance of a work-life balance), it makes them a little less aggressive when it comes to finding a job.
  • Many twenty-somethings lack work experience because their parents have always provided financial support – they’ve never worked a part-time job because they’ve never needed to. Conversely, most boomers had some job experience in their teen years that helped them land a job in their twenties.
  • Millennials have come to expect a positive and perhaps even trendy work environment where workers are given a lot of freedom. They read about the work environment at Google or Zappos and they come to expect that they’ll be able to dress however they like, bring their dog to work, even play games in the office during breaks. Boomers, however, have never had those expectations of their workplace. Good or bad, millennials often expect employers to be “cool.”
  • When boomers joined the workforce, a bachelor’s degree was a relatively precious commodity. Today, however, most high school students are encouraged to attend college, and as a result a bachelor’s degree isn’t as valuable as it once was.

Is the Problem A Poor Work Ethic, or Is It A Tight Job Market?

Some people may disagree with the assessment that millennials have a less-than-exemplary work ethic, arguing instead that the problem for twenty-somethings is a tight job market. To these critics I would say that the economy is absolutely a factor. There aren’t a lot of jobs available. However, a tight job market isn’t the only problem.

Many college students fail to take advantage of college career centers and job placement services.  Most college career centers offer career assessment tests, interview skills classes and workshops, resume reviews, etc. However, it’s up to students to seek these services out.

What’s a Parent To Do?

If your favorite twenty-something is not employed, there are a few things you can do to help them find a job.

First, if your child is not working, encourage them to go out and get any job they can. This could be in food service, working as a valet, teaching at a preschool, or even working as a volunteer. Whatever it is, a job is important because it helps your child feel some success. Work experience, regardless of the job,  helps us frame our expectations, increases our contacts, and boosts our confidence.

Incidentally, a few months working at an entry level job tends to be a powerful motivator for your twenty-something to go out and find something better.

Second, encourage your college graduate to look at vocational and technical schools. There’s a strong demand for veterinary technicians, x-ray or ultrasound technicians, paralegals, and more. If you or your twenty-something aren’t sold on pursuing this path, consider this: There is more demand in the current job market for electricians than there is for lawyers. What’s more, many electricians earn six-figure salaries.

Next, be clear about your boundaries, especially regarding finances and living at home. When parents take the initiative and tell their stay-at-home adult children a) how long their adult child can live at home and b) how much money they’re willing to contribute in terms of support, there will be less drama. For example, a parent might agree to pay for health insurance expenses while declining to pay for a vehicle.

Finally, if your child expresses a desire to return to school to obtain a more advanced degree, the best thing you can do as a parent is to encourage them to get some career counseling and some real-world work experience first. That way they can make an informed career choice.

Speaking of career counseling, I’d like to point out that I’ve helped hundreds of twenty-somethings find their ideal career. I’ve found that career assessments which measure your child’s interests, abilities, and personality can make a world of difference in a twenty-something’s life. It can help them identify their ideal career and give them the confidence to attack the job market too.

Author Anne Angerman is a professional career counselor and founder of Career Matters, a career coaching firm in Denver, Colorado. To learn more about Anne’s career counseling packages for twenty-somethings, click here.

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Jenni Proctor

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