Memo to Helicopter Parents

Here's an article I wrote recently for a different audience -- thought I'd share it here too.

Memo to Helicopter Parents: 7 Ways to Help — Not Hurt — Your Child in the Job Search Process

What's that sound? That's the sound of helicopter blades whirring above corporate America. "Bring Your Helicopter Parents to Work Day" lasts all year long now, and it's driving employers nuts.

As college and graduate students gear up for their grand entrance into the working world, parents are showing up at their adult children's job interviews, negotiating benefits with HR, calling to check on the status of job applications, and touring corporate facilities. Parents are butting in so frequently and shamelessly that companies like Merrill Lynch now host Parent Days for the over-involved parents of summer interns, and Ernst & Young sends copies of offer letters to the parents of its recruits.

Helicopter parents are doing their children no favors in the long run. Many parents excuse their hovering by rationalizing that in "supervising" the job search process, they are only helping their child's chances of landing the best job.  Not so fast. Children of helicopter parents will not gain the respect of their bosses

Your contribution will be accepted -- but not respected -- by your child's colleagues and supervisors, and when promotion time comes, they will remember the role you played.  When a company is looking to fill a position with a mature, highly motivated, self-starting employee capable of supervising others and dealing with challenging situations, would they be wise to promote a person who brought his mother into the job interview? As a law firm partner explained it to me: "If you need Mommy to fight your battles in the job search process, I don't think much of your chances with the plaintiffs' bar."

Yes, you have more life experience than your child, and the instinct to help is a good one. Keep these tips in mind as your children go through the job search process so that you help them grow into mature, capable professionals instead of holding them back:

1.    Do not accompany your children to interviews. It's fine to drop them off, but don't even set foot in the lobby, let alone the interview room. Go grab a coffee until you get a call that the interview is done. Keep in mind, though, that planning ahead to get to an interview on time is an important life skill, and your child should ideally be able to get himself to an interview without your help. This isn't fifth-grade soccer practice.

2.    Do not communicate directly with the company in any way. Do not call to let them know your kid is running late. Do not call to reschedule. Do not call to get directions. Do not call to get an update or complain about the hiring process or ask about benefits. Your child should be the only one communicating with the company.

3.    Do not contact your network on behalf of your child. It's fine to sit down with your daughter and put your heads together about good people to contact, but she should be the one to reach out to your network, state her case, and ask them for help.

4.    Do listen to your child's voicemail greeting. Does it sound professional? Mature? Articulate? Chances are, the answer is no. Help him practice and record an effective greeting, and practice a ‘live' introduction as well. Also ask yourself how his ring tone would sound if his phone rang in the presence of an interviewer (ever heard "Buy U A Drank" bleating from a cell phone?), and what kind of impression his email address gives (DarkAvatar@gmail.com).

5.    Do Google together. Interviewers will Google your child to see what she and others have posted about her online. Take down any MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, and blog postings that would raise an interviewer's eyebrows. Bikini shots (or worse) from spring break? Passed out drunk at a party? Trash-talking her current boss? Experimenting with Druid rituals? Take it all down. Much of that material may be "cached" and un-deletable, or posted by third parties over whom you have no control, but do what you can. [More here, here, and here.]

6.    Do review his resume and cover letters. Point out weaknesses or areas for improvement, but remember to explain any edits you suggest so that he learns from the editing process.

7.    Do be a fashion cop. Do not let your child walk out the door with sunglasses perched on her head, gum in her mouth, or iPod buds stuck in her ears. Make sure she doesn't go to an interview or any professional setting in capri pants, tank tops, funky shoes, or the kind of jewelry she goes clubbing in.

More thoughts here, here, here, and here.