How to Help Your Adult Kids or Grandkids Get a Job

Here, what you can do to help your adult children find a job — and where you should draw the line.

They’re back — or maybe they never left.

There are many reasons why more adult children are living with their parents than in previous generations, but one of the biggest factors is not having a job.

Unfortunately, the numbers here aren’t promising: Unemployment is up among younger adults, and it can take six or more months to find a job, whether they’re a new grad or faced a job loss. In addition, many students are graduating with record levels of debt and high expectations for their lifestyle. It all makes for a rather rocky start to an independent life.

If your child is struggling with finding a job, it’s only natural to want to help — but some of us might be going a little too far. There’s even a buzzword for it: “helicopter parents or grandparents”, who hover over every move.

Want to help, not harm? Here are a few dos and don’ts to help your adult children or grandchildren land on their own financial feet.

Do: Understand that today’s job market is different. The job search strategies you used decades ago don’t necessarily work now. While networking will be important, gone are the days of sending out mass-produced resumes. Today, customization is key — and social networking, online applications and online portfolios are the norm.

Likewise, the majority of workers will change jobs several times throughout their career. Job seekers aren’t making a life-long commitment to an employer — and the first job doesn’t have to be their dream job. There’s something to be said for “getting your foot in the door” and getting some experience.

Don’t: Lament about the “good old days.” They’re gone, and hearing how good things “used to be” isn’t going to ease anyone’s frustration. If you want to help, it’s important to have a sense of what’s going on in today’s job market and keep expectations realistic.

Do: Encourage them to clean up their (online) act. More employers are turning to social media to research potential hires. They don’t want to your kids’ vacation photos, profanity, derogatory remarks, gossip about previous employers and evidence of drug or alcohol use. Even an unprofessional screen name or an out of date profile can put off hiring managers. Most experts tell job seekers to research themselves online and see what comes up.

However, social media can be a boon for job seekers when it supports their applications and expertise — such as “tweeting” about the latest industry news and posting their accomplishments. Social networks like LinkedIn also let users connect with people in their field, join groups and post questions.

In short, it’s time to review what information is available about themselves online, revamp their privacy settings and take time to craft their online presence. If it isn’t appropriate for you (as a parent) to see, chances are an employer shouldn’t see it either. (For more information, see 10 career-damaging online mistakes.)

Don’t: Embarrass your kids online. Yes, more older adults are joining these sites, but the internet isn’t the place to share your kids’ embarrassing pictures, correct their grammar or reprimand their behaviour. If there’s a problem, discuss it off line.

Do: Point them towards resources. Most colleges and universities have career services departments for current students and alumni. Many resources are available online — like career search guides and job listings — but these departments also offer workshops and one-on-one coaching. If they’re still in school, encourage your job seekers to talk to their professors about crafting a resume and portfolio specific to their career path.

Other places to look: try your community’s job bank, professional organizations or alumni association.

Don’t: Do all the research for them. Job hunting isn’t a one time event — for most workers, staying with a single employer for decades isn’t feasible. Many workers have to look outside their current employer for advance, so it’s important to learn how to do it right — and do it themselves.

Do: Encourage networking. Experts call networking the number one job search strategy for a reason: the majority of jobs never make the postings, and the ones that do often net hundreds of applicants. A referral from a trusted connection can help job seekers tap into this “hidden job market”.

There are many ways to get started: encourage job seekers to set up information interviews with people in their field, join a professional organizations (students can join a discounted rate), try speed networking, attend workshops and local events and use social networks like LinkedIn. (For more tips, see Make your network work for you and LinkedIn for your career.)

Don’t: Tag along. Believe it or not, parents have been known to accompany their offspring to job fairs and networking events — even to interviews. Your adult children don’t need a “wing man” — and having Mom or Dad looking over their shoulder can undermine job seekers’ credibility and independence.

Do: Tap into your own network. It’s okay to make inquiries on your kids’ behalf, say experts. In fact, job seekers should be talking to friends and family about their search. Older adults not only have the advantage of experience, they also have decades of building their own professional networks. Even if you don’t know anyone who is hiring, you never know where the next lead will come from.

Don’t: Hassle your friends, family and colleagues. You’ve made the introduction, now it’s up to your connections and your son or daughter to take it from here. Hassling them won’t win you any favours and can reflect badly on your child. Let your contact get in touch with the job seeker, and let him or her handle the follow up.

Likewise, experts warn to steer clear of potential employers. There have been cases where parents have contacted an employer to ask why they didn’t hire their son or daughter or negotiate a salary. Though well-meaning, these actions do more harm than good.

Do: Offer guidance — and a second opinion. A second set of eyes and a second opinion can be invaluable when it comes to preparing applications and getting ready for interviews. Offer to edit the resume and cover letter, and play the employer in a role-playing exercise. Let your job seeker practice his or her “elevator pitch” on you, and, if asked, play consultant for proper interview attire and etiquette — like sending thank you notes.

Don’t: Take over. You aren’t responsible for writing resumes and cover letters or crafting answers to interview questions. Experts warn parents have to let their children take responsibility for the job search. You can provide information and guidance, but ultimately the choice is up to the job seeker.

Do: Encourage experience. It’s a job hunter’s conundrum: employers are looking for experience, but how you can get experience when they won’t hire you? Experts say any job is better than no job, even if it doesn’t pay (like an internship or volunteer experience). Even if the job isn’t in your child’s field, he or she can build transferable skills and their network.

Another bonus: having a job offers a sense of purpose, helps restore self-confidence and alleviates that sense of isolation. Employers don’t like gaps on resumes — and there’s some truth to the adage that “it’s easier to find a job when you have a job.”

Don’t: Accept excuses. It’s easy to claim “there just isn’t anything out there” and lose momentum or give up. Don’t accept the doom and gloom, say experts. Instead, encourage your adult child to focus on getting more experience and networking. It’s difficult, but necessary, to keep a positive attitude throughout the process.

Do: Hold regular check-ins. You’ve likely heard that finding a job is a job in itself — and parents can keep the process professional by holding a regular meeting to discuss the job seeker’s progress. Experts suggest sitting down once a week (or more often, if necessary) to get an update, set goals, talk strategy and offer feedback. It’s also a good time to get goals and celebrate successes. (And a more successful strategy than nagging.)

Don’t: Offer too much support. There’s a fine between keeping a roof over your boomerang’s head and enabling their lack of success. When parents provide too much comfort and financial support, their adult children can lose motivation, say experts. Also, they’re enjoying a lifestyle they won’t be able to maintain alone.

How can you offer some incentive to move on? Think about asking adult children to contribute to the household. That means paying rent and paying their own bills if they have a job, or contributing in other ways (like yard work, cooking, cleaning, etc.) if they don’t. Some strict ground rules — like setting a curfew and forbidding overnight guests — can also help. Living at home should be a little uncomfortable.

Overall, it’s important to remember that every family and every situation is different — and, sad to say, there is no “magic bullet” to finding a job. It can be hard to sit back and let someone find their own way — especially if they are under your roof — but ultimately finding a job is the responsibility of your adult child. The key is knowing how much you’re willing to help — and where to draw the line.

Sources:,,, the Independent,

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