How to Get Grads Off the Couch and Into the Workplace

They're out of school, now what? Here are some tips to get your grad motivated.

ByTORY JOHNSON <br /> Workplace Contributor via via logo
September 06, 2009, 9:32 PM

Sept. 7, 2009 &#151; -- With summer over, it's time to get new college grads off the couch and on the road to launching a career. But it won't be easy.

Employers expect to hire 22 per cent fewer graduates from the class of 2009 than they did from last year's graduating class, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. And even that number may be optimistic.

There are five things every parent can do to nurture -- not nag -- your grad to job search success.

Click here to visit Tory Johnson's Job Club page.

Agree that your new grad must wake up each morning as if reporting to work. The work now is to find a job. Be realistic: a first job isn't the dream job, nor does it have to be connected to a major (most people don't work in their college major); the goal is to simply get to work.

Every kind of experience counts, so don't plan to hold out for the perfect position.

Agree that steps must be taken every day to job search full time -- and yet nobody can search 24/7. So maybe mornings are devoted to specific search activities and afternoons move on to something else.

Share your own candid career experiences. Explain that you too have had to endure job searches during your career. Coach your kid by rehearsing answers to common questions that will no doubt come up: Tell me about yourself, what kind of work do you want to do, and what are your career goals.

Suggest resources that could spark ideas. For example, a trip to the local bookstore to browse career titles can offer ideas on job search tactics and could open them to fresh ideas on potential careers. Tell your son or daughter to contact the college campus career services office to ask which companies are recruiting new grads from his or her major, and also reach out to 10 alumni from the last five years to ask for help or informational conversations.

Remind them that social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook aren't just for fun and games, but must be used for professional networking, too. In fact, LinkedIn recently launched a section dedicated to new grads.

With outsiders, campaign for your kid; don't complain about him or her.

It's easy to complain that the kid's on the couch, especially when you bump into an old friend at the grocery store. But instead of complaining, campaign in your son or daughter's favor. You might say, "These kids have graduated in the worst economy, but they have so much to offer -- they're so eager to launch their careers -- and I'm determined to help them do just that."

Rally your friends, peers and contacts to help. Sometimes lessons and advice carry more clout when delivered by a trusted friend than by mom or dad, so enlist your contacts to talk to your kid -- and help teach them the value of networking. For example, your daughter wants to be an accountant, so you call your accountant to give her 30 minutes of his time.

An unpaid internship offers exposure to the workplace, teaches responsibility, offers kids an opportunity to prove themselves, and build references and experience. It may even light the fire to say, "Hey, I'm a college grad and I don't like working for free," which makes them even more determined than ever to find a paying position.

Small businesses are usually receptive to a pitch from a new grad for such an internship. For example, your daughter who wants to be an accountant might pitch herself as an unpaid intern for three months to a small accounting firm in your area.

Register with temp agencies in your area. It might require performing tasks that aren't exactly what he or she envisioned post-college, but it could be a foot in the door. Maybe there is even a task or two connected to the family business that you can assign.

Consider volunteering on a local political campaign. This is a great way to get thrown right in, gain experience and make solid contacts.

Do not opt to go back to school as a temporary solution, and don't stay in school simply because you can't find a job. If you're considering a graduate degree, it should be because you have a serious interest in a particular career path. Grad school, especially given the cost, is not simply a reason to prolong the inevitable job search.

Finally, demand some rent money -- a realistic amount, which may be nominal but it's symbolic of adult responsibilities. You can opt to use it toward household expenses or to create a savings fund for your son or daughter.

Be patient. Right now isn't the time for mom or dad to rush their kids out of the house. Off the couch, yes, but given the unstable job market not out of the house, especially if you have space at home.

Of course they're absolutely desperate to live on their own -- no new grad is thrilled to stay with mommy. They want the freedom to finally be on their own, but there's a lifetime ahead for that. (By the way, this is a delicate topic that several parents in my new Job Club group on have emailed me about. I know it's not an easy decision.)

Just remind them that staying with mom and dad for a bit longer than ideal enables them to begin paying off student debt and/or save money until they've got a cushion and feel confident about the job market.

Tory Johnson is the Workplace Contributor on Good Morning America, the author of 'Fired to Hired', and the CEO of Women For Hire. Talk to her every day at

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