College to Career: Is a Parent’s Job Ever Finished?

Just a few weeks ago, it was graduation season and parents all over uttered a collective sigh of relief that they had accomplished another milestone of raising a child. Now that their son or daughter was armed with a high school diploma or college degree, surely the rest of life’s plan would effortlessly fall into place.

Like the clichéd refrain from a stock commencement speech, however, rather than signally completion, the graduation only marks the beginning of a new and often confusing phase of life.

Today, college graduates face nearly unprecedentedly daunting odds for finding a first job in a career that matters to them and suits their skills and interests. Those who do not prepare for this reality can expect to be relegated to the nearly 50% of graduates who will not hold a job that requires a bachelor’s degree twelve months after graduating.

Much is made of the generational gap between Millennials and their Generation X and Boomer bosses, but it fact these challenges have always been with us. The difference today is that the rate of change in business is accelerated. Recent graduates have less time to prove themselves and find it harder to recover from missteps.

We spend much of high school and some of middle school preparing our children to applying to college under the misguided assumption that all will be solved by their attainment of their degree. Yet, when it comes to career development we are content to let them “figure it out” on their own. Often, it is only after the trial and error of false starts, expensive but superfluous graduate degrees and valuable lost time, that we realize that a little more time dedicated to the process of career development will yield infinite returns in the future.

Young people who spend time focusing on the four “c’s” of career development find their future paths to be more fulfilling and successful. The first of these elements is confidence. In short, people (of any age) who know who they are and what they seek are far more likely to find it. Next is curriculum, there are simply a number of content subjects that all in the world of work need to know and it is virtually assured that they are not learning them in college.

Connections is the idea that college graduates need to systematically learn to develop their human capital network in order to learn about industries, companies, people and ideas. Finally, coaching, whether professional or amateur provides graduates with the guidance, accountability and experience they need to take action and make good decisions.

Leaders need to develop their subordinates and parents, of course, are the ultimate leaders. Micromanaging helicopter parents are not the answer, but parents who ensure that their adult children have the tools they need to develop independence will be most successful in the long run.

Peter A. Gudmundsson is the Chief Executive Officer & President of the Dropout & Truancy Prevention Network. Prior to joining the company he was the founder and CEO of the Priceless Legacy Company which was a custom media company that helped people preserve their life stories and lessons in print and electronic forms. Most of his career has been dedicated to leadership in media, information and intellectual property intensive businesses. He serves as a Director of the National Dropout Prevention Network and is also an active Boy Scout leader. He is married to the former Kathleen Vouté of Bronxville, New York. They reside in Dallas with their four children.