February 21, 2019

Cutting the Cord: Why Are So Many Parents Trying to Run Their Childrens’ Careers?


If you’re a parent with an adult child, this article is for you.

Before I go too far, let me say this: I know you love your child. I know you want them to do well. I know that when your child is struggling, you want to help.

But I also know this: When it comes to your child’s job search, what you think is helping them is very likely hurting them instead.

From time to time, I receive a request from a parent who wants to speak to me about their 30-year-old child’s job search. This used to be a rare occasion, but it now seems to be rapidly becoming the norm.

When a concerned parent reaches out to me, I respond with a friendly note saying I’d love to help and they should have their child contact me. Recently, a frustrated parent responded to this note to let me know they were not a helicopter parent. Rather, they said, their child was just busy, and they — the parent — were better at this sort of thing.

I shared my experience with a few friends, and I found out I’m not the only one seeing this kind of behavior somewhat regularly. One friend noted that they had heard of parents calling a university scholarship office on behalf of their children. When that happens, my friend said, the university adds the child to a list — the “not a good candidate” list.

Another friend told me about parents calling in sick to their child’s work on their child’s behalf. A recruiter I know told me parents call on behalf of their children regularly. Another friend shared that a parent once asked to sit in on their adult child’s job interview.

These stories should make any parent cringe. Please hear me when I say this: You are not helping your children when you do these things. Instead, you are hurting them. Not only are you actually sabotaging your child’s job search, but you’re also keeping your child from learning how to take charge of their professional life on their own.

Companies take note when parents reach out on behalf of their children, and they don’t just judge the parents. They judge the child, too, assuming they are a coddled baby who would be unable to function in a real job. They assume your child could not be given responsibility, and that is most definitely not the kind of employee any company wants on staff.

If you find your adult child is struggling with their job search, don’t take it over for them. Instead, try having a conversation with them. Ask about what they’re struggling with. Listen to their concerns. Share your own experiences and advice. When they get rejected, offer your support and encouragement.

Above all, remember that any support you offer should be offered on the sidelines. The minute you jump into your child’s struggling job search, you torpedo their chances of landing a role. Employers will make a point not to hire your child — no matter how talented they may be.

Step back. Allow your children to grow. They are adults, after all.

A version of this article originally appeared on Copeland Coaching.

Angela Copeland is a career coach and CEO at Copeland Coaching.

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Angela Copeland is a career coach and CEO at her firm, Copeland Coaching (www.CopelandCoaching.com). She is host of the Copeland Coaching Podcast, and author of the career eBook "Breaking The Rules & Getting The Job". Follow Angela on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/copelandcoaching), Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/copelandcoach), and Instagram (http://www.instagram.com/copelandcoaching).