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How to get your college grad out of the basement and into a job

When your child was in high school, you hoped he’d be accepted to a good college on his way to a fulfilling career. But it’s four years later, he’s happily graduated, and yet—unable to find a job, he’s once again living at home. His job search strategy? When he’s not responding to job ads online, he’s playing video games.

What is a self-respecting parent to do?

Provide a Strategy

Most job-seekers of all ages devote a high percentage of their time to responding to ads online. This is a mistake. 

First of all, it gives a false sense of productivity—that you’re actually searching for a job when most of the time, a human being will never view your resume. 

Secondly, it is a passive exercise. 

When you spend time replying to job ads that could be interesting, you are forfeiting the opportunity to decide what you want your career to look like. To get out of this trap, encourage your child to come up with a few career tracks that seem appealing, and help him research the right companies and roles for him, instead of allowing outside forces to control his fate. More on this later.

Help Your Child with Brainstorming and Contacts

One of the most daunting tasks for new grads is creating a network. As an adult with school, work and social lives, you have a ready-made network you can share with your child. 

If he hasn’t already done so, have him create a LinkedIn profile. Suggest he connect with everyone he knows and has met recently, including your own contacts. 

In addition to being resources for informational interviews and potential jobs, these contacts in the aggregate provide a great research tool for exploring backgrounds, education and roles and responsibilities for virtually every type of career.

Once he’s identified some career tracks, have him reach out to contacts on LinkedIn for brief informational interviews. Most professionals will make time for a 20-minute conversation with a struggling new grad who’s interested in their field, so take advantage.

Don’t let him forget about his ready-made network: alumni from his college. Alumni tend to feel a more acute sense of wanting to pay it forward and may be more willing than others to be helpful. Find them through the college career services center; they should be glad to help.

In addition, encourage him to create a career planning group with other unemployed grads. This can be done both in person and online, and is a tremendous resource for networking, staying on task and discussing career concepts. The group should meet weekly to share progress and keep the momentum going.

Get Support

If your child hasn’t had much exposure to the business world and needs not only inspiration but also understanding of the kinds of career paths that exist, it’s best to get some outside help. He is up against a great deal of focused competition and will need to jump-start his search, as I’ve mentioned before

A career consultant should help him understand his strengths and interests and how they intersect with various fields. Together they should put together a well-researched list of organizations and roles that are a good fit, and a concrete plan of action for contacting them. Here again is where contacts count: when you know someone who works for an organization of interest and can reach out to them to shepherd your child’s marketing materials.

Most people graduate from college unclear about what kind of work they want to pursue. Finding the right career is not something that is specifially taught in schools, and people of all ages conduct poor job searches. 

With a few tools and a sense of collaboration, you can help your child take control of his career plan and improve the odds that his first job will be a success.

Allison Cheston is a New York City-based career adviser who works with mid-career executives and young adults who are in high school, college or are recent graduates. She blogs on career issues for young adults at In the Driver’s Seat, as well as at Forbes.com. And she blogs for mid-career professionals at The Examiner. A marketer and inveterate networker with a background in executive search, Cheston is the author of an upcoming book designed to help young adults from late high school through college develop strengths and interests and match them to internships, coursework and, ultimately, the right career.

Allison Cheston is a New York City-based career adviser who works with mid-career executives and young adults who are in high school, college or are recent graduates. She blogs on career issues for young adults at In the Driver’s Seat, as well as at Forbes.com. And she blogs for mid-career professionals at The Examiner. A marketer and inveterate networker with a background in executive search, Cheston is the author of an upcoming book designed to help young adults from late high school through college develop strengths and interests and match them to internships, coursework and, ultimately, the right career.