Is Your Child Employable? Pointers for the Recent Grad

Work + Money

frances c jones
Frances Cole Jones, Founder, Cole Media Management

By Frances Cole Jones

Summer has come and now gone, and while it was fun to have your college-graduate around the house for a few months, their persistent non-response to, “Have you thought about what kind of job you might get?” is becoming worrying.  

With this in mind, here are a few suggestions you might make to help them present their best self: 

Consider their communication.

At this point, your child probably engages in multiple forms of communication: voicemail, email and social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, etc. Suffice it to say, if your kid is still using these forms of communication as they did in college, it’s time for an overhaul.

A voicemail greeting along the lines of “Yo dawg!” isn’t going to wow. Encourage your child to stand while recording the greeting, speak slowly and clearly, and record the greeting in a quiet space.

While you’re at it, your child’s email address should not be along the lines of “hotkitty” and its ilk. Obscure combinations of letters and numbers should also be avoided; such addresses make others have to work too hard to remember them. Instead, your child should buy their name as a Why? Because using an email service that is used by millions of others (Gmail, AOL, Roadrunner, etc.) doesn’t leave the impression that your child is unique or a force to be reckoned with. Buying their name tells others they take themselves seriously.

Also take a look at your child’s Facebook, MySpace and Twitter pages. Employers will be checking these. Ask yourself, “Does this entry/picture make them sound/look like they can be trusted with $100,000?” If it doesn’t, they need to get rid of it. 

Ensure they’re interview-ready.

Make sure your graduate has cards—not credit cards, business cards. These should list their full name and contact information, and multiple ways to reach them (email, snail mail, land line, cell, Skype, etc.) The cards shouldn’t include a description of what your child wants to do. While your child may indeed want be a writer, designer, agent, or producer, there’s a whiff of desperation in including that on a card. I also don’t recommend including slogans, mission statements, affirmations, inspirational sayings, etc.

Next, find out how your child plans to respond to softball questions like, “So, why do you want to work in this field?” and, “So…tell me about yourself.” In both cases, your child’s answer needs to be about the firm/job in question. So the former might look like, “From the time I was X, I’ve been fascinated by the Y industry—and since your reputation in the field/the area is second-to-none when I began applying I started with you.” The latter inquiry is a chance for your child to speak about the company’s needs in terms of your child’s abilities—it is not, it must be noted, an invitation to talk at length about their personal life. Consequently, your child’s answer might be, “My understanding is that your company needs X, Y, and Z,” after which they can move on to, “As you can see from my resume, I’ve worked hard to get as much experience as I can to date— and I’m certain that working for your company would allow me to strengthen and improve these existing skills.”

Have them widen their net.

While your child may feel awkward reaching out to high school and college mentors, these people are often marvelous resources for job leads, productive internships, and resume-polishing tips.  If your child claims it’s too awkward, ask them what questions they’re dreading most.  (This is usually, “So, what are you doing with yourself these days?”) Then offer to talk through potential responses. 

Another terrific tool for these recent graduates is the informational interview. Because the people they’re approaching are often quite busy, have your child make the request as follows, “I was wondering if I could come in and speak with you for fifteen minutes at the beginning or end of your day.”  In addition to the wealth of information these interviews can offer, the practice of answering – and asking -- even basic interview questions is invaluable for your child. Additionally, the thank you note your child will be sure to write afterward will provide a fail-safe template for the notes they will need to write as job interview requests roll in.

Frances Cole Jones is the founder of Cole Media Management and the author of How to Wow: Proven Strategies for Selling Your (Brilliant) Self in any Situation, and of the new The Wow Factor: The 33 Things You Must (and Must Not) Do to Guarantee Your Edge in Today's Business World.

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