Do you cringe when hearing the term “helicopter parents?” Nobody wants to be that parent. Do you hover, offering unsolicited advice, attempting to thwart minor failures, and purchasing countless expensive gadgets and devices (because saying no is hard!)? You aren’t alone. We’re all guilty of hovering, enabling, and causing problematic behavior prevalent in Generation Z students and grads.
Many experts in academics, career services, career coaching, and talent acquisition agree. By the time many Gen Z students graduate from college, they are not equipped with strong soft skills. They’re not confident about entering the workforce and contributing strongly to employers. Or worse, they’re overly confident.
Don’t waste time pointing the finger at co-parents. Avoid blaming our school systems or higher education programs. Shaking our heads while gazing hopelessly at our children and shrugging our shoulders won’t help. It makes sense to ask ourselves that age-old question: “What’s my part in this problem? How can I ensure that my child is well-prepared for the workplace? How can I help her find a great job and retain it?”
Cindy Folmer, Senior Human Resources Manager at L’Oréal USA, manages, coaches, and trains interns and entry-level employees daily. L’Oréal USA hires over 100 interns each summer. The company offers many of them the opportunity to join the Management Development Program. The program cultivates managers in distribution centers, manufacturing facilities, corporate headquarters, and other locations.
Folmer understands firsthand challenges facing employers today in working with Gen Z college students and recent grads. “Proper manners, etiquette, ability to engage, and patience are all areas I see as challenges facing recent grads in the workplace. There are attitudes and behaviors, at times, that indicate those just entering the workforce believe they don’t have to put in the effort their parents did to move ahead as quickly. The challenge for employers is to engage this group so they are willing to learn and stay where they are in order to bring value to an organization. We’re committed to meeting this challenge at L’Oréal.” Folmer asserts.
How can parents prevent their children from developing attitudes like this to begin with? How can parents help their children develop strong soft skills?
Encourage evidence of soft skills development
Help children develop soft skills by encouraging the soft skill itself rather than by scolding the child for exhibiting its negative opposite. For example, if your child constantly procrastinates and never turns in homework on time, praise him when he meets deadlines. Visit with teachers to open lines of communication. If you know when he’s submitting work on time, you can more easily encourage him. When he saunters downstairs one minute before it’s time to leave, express gratitude that he’s dressed and ready rather than making snide comments about his hairstyle.
Focus on communication
Consider a technology-free zone in your home, a tech-free vacation, or a tech-free hour as a family. Model this behavior as a parent. If your child sees you with your nose in your phone, she’s not going to be inclined to put hers away. When you eat dinner—whether at a restaurant or at home—why not toss all your cell phones in a basket and engage in face-to-face conversation? This is a great way to encourage communication skills.
Help children develop patience
“Teach children the art of waiting. Although we definitely need to stay ahead in the area of technology, we’ve made it easy for our children to get what they want when they want it. For instance, if they want to watch a specific television show they missed, we can jump onto In Demand,” suggests Folmer.
Allow children to explore career options
Encourage children to find suitable career mentors and to explore career goals early in life. This doesn’t require an extensive, formal assessment. Even elementary students can create vision boards and enjoy job shadowing and site visits. Most professionals absolutely love sharing about what they do. Chances are, your own friends and family members work in various career fields. Supervise this process to ensure your child’s safety, but don’t dictate which career fields your child chooses to explore, or you’ll take the fun out of it.
Praise children for facing challenges and completing tasks
“Encourage them to absorb the pleasure of finishing something instead of jumping to the next activity. Give them something to do that will take time, such as learning a new sport, one they don’t really want to do. On the job, there will be tasks we don’t want to do; we have to do them, though. Then take a look back and talk through lessons learned, challenges overcome, and the excitement of success of each of these,” Folmer notes.
There are countless ways to help children learn soft skills and become confident in themselves. This confidence helps students become sought-after candidates.
What if your child is struggling in his job search?
To help or not to help: The dilemma facing helicopter parents
“College is a time for exploration, to learn, and to show that an individual can do things on their own,” said Matt Krumrie, a professional resume writer and career adviser who works with entry-level job seekers seeking that first job out of college. “Recent college grads should ask their parents for advice – but that’s it. They shouldn’t ask them to come to interviews – that really has happened – or expect them to lead their job search, or mention what they tell them in an interview.”
Letting children stand on their own as job seekers
“Employers want to hire people who can think on their own, make decisions, and show they can get a job done without relying on someone else to always guide them,” Krumrie goes on to say. “When parents hover, or overstep boundaries in the job search, employers notice, and that hurts the job seeker. They wonder how much this will continue if hired, and in reality, it impacts hiring decisions. Once students graduates, it’s time to spread their wings, and show they are their own person ready to make an impact – without relying on mom and dad to lead them.”
Folmer agrees. “It’s very important at the stage of applications for parents to give their kids the opportunity to go it alone. I’ve seen too many kids come into the workplace with no idea how to complete an application. They also struggle with completing paperwork or making decisions. Be supportive, talk things out, and give them the tools necessary to go to the next level of their life.”
Each parent needs to decide the appropriate level of involvement with her own child. You might pay for career coaching, send a career-related article, or offer no career advice and simply love her. Regardless, the fact you took time to read this article means you’re a loving parent doing your best to help. Your child will be just fine in the end, no matter which path she chooses.