How Well-Intentioned Parents Prevent Their Children From Getting A Job

I’ve had my own business for the past 13 years and I have seen my fair share of well-intentioned parents trying to help their children find jobs. Since I am also a mother, of a 14-year-old, and a 9-year-old, I can completely understand the urge to want to help your children succeed. However, I am only at the stage where I need to decide to help my son with the science fair project or potentially take over the project if I want to compete with the masterpieces that the other third-grade parents are creating. (Clearly little Billy didn’t make that solar-powered fuel cell all by himself.) Well, I do edit my daughter’s high school essays before she submits them. Maybe the stakes aren’t that high just yet for my kids. But if we are looking at the ‘kids’ in the job market, we can just blame the ‘Millennials’ again, but I know, we need to take a cold hard look at the parents to figure out where the problem really began.

Over the years, I have seen parents submit resumes on behalf of their children, I have seen moms show up to the interview with their young job candidate (and our office is in NYC so no, they didn’t need to drive him to the interview) and patiently wait on the couch, I have even had a mom ask if she could sit in on the interview (that poor child!) to which the answer was a hard to hide our shock, “No.” I even had a colleague once tell me that a father called to discuss his child’s annual review because he didn’t agree with what the supervisor wrote about him. (What?!)

However, it was a recent letter from a mom that really set me off. Let’s call her ‘Lisa.’ Lisa, whom I never met, and don’t know, wrote to me recently out of the blue. It was not in response to a job posting and I am not sure how she received my contact information. Lisa wrote:

“i have a daughter who is between jobs and who would be perfect in a firm who can utilise her talents as an expert presenter, global experience, young, and bright smile along with social grace and very high business acumen. Her experience in her young life has brought her around the world, and in contact with yachtsmen, international travel and expert communication.

she is recently leaving an education job at Manhattan’s premier gifted and talented high school, where she became department chair and leader in a short time.

i am thinking that any position that could show her interface skills as well as her expert presentation skills would be rewarding, especially if commission and bonus were involved, as she is highly motivated and competitive, if the atmosphere is effective and pleasant.”

The letter went on to ask if I had a suitable position for her talented daughter. I almost immediately deleted the email. But then, I had a pang of guilt because I knew that this mom only meant to help her daughter, yet, she was probably going to actually do more damage than good if she continued to send out these emails on her behalf. So I took a moment and tried to write back a short, but what I hoped would be, a well-received message:

“Dear [Lisa],

As a mom myself, I know you have the best of intentions. However, you are actually hurting your daughter’s chances of getting any job if she isn’t mature enough, capable, or interested in seeking employment herself. She needs to apply on her own.

Best of luck,

Sandra”

I didn’t really expect to hear back from her and I hoped, that if her daughter did apply for a job at my firm, I could try to view her resume objectively and not hold it against her that her mother was on par with Ray Romano’s overbearing, up-in-your-business, mother. But Lisa would not back down so easily. She wrote me back. And boy, did she let me have it. Here are a few choice excerpts:

“Sandra,

sorry you see it that way. it was only meant to open the door to a proper submission of a c.v., if it were the right company which would appreciate information about her, as she is unequalled in her capacity to present. (that means no one else can equal her power, i am not kidding.. and it is only through me you would have the chance.)”

“….with some, my message will not resonate only because it came from a mother. i find that sad. i have already gotten back positive messages from others. so the message must not be so bad. this is not a demonstration of whether or not she should apply bur rather, whether she should even put forth the time, for you legitimately may not have an opening. then, she shouldn’t waste her time.

i am a real feminist. the real deal, and, if i have hurt her chances with you, it does not mean i have hurt her chances with ’the’ appropriate company that she will eventually change! i trust her appearance before the right decision maker will make the decision; not me.

i send you true blessings and hope that you indeed will indeed see things in true perspective and that women are not somehow deficits that children must deny, maybe someday.

in His Awesome Name,

[Lisa]”

There is so much that I could say to critique Lisa’s actual letter that I won’t because it’s the spirit of it, more than the grammatical errors, spelling or religious reference, that I have issue with. I have no doubt that Lisa truly believes that her daughter is the most talented, amazing, unparalleled, most valuable, potential employee that our company could ever have. However, we, and any other company, needs to hear it from more than her mother. We need to see it from her daughter’s own writing, her education, her experience, her intelligence, her fortitude, her passion, her wit, her hard work. And Lisa can’t demonstrate that. And the first step, is for the daughter to show her willingness to apply for a job on her own, to write a letter of introduction on her own, to articulate her value, to demonstrate her abilities and to showcase her talent. And, if her mother decides to step up on stage and tell us all about her amazing daughter, she’s stolen the spotlight, taken away the moment, and wasted the valuable opportunity, maybe even the one opportunity, her daughter had.

So, I implore all of my well-intentioned parents out there, please step back. Coax your children from the wings of the stage. You’ve taught them well for 18+ years, you’ve probably paid for a very expensive education, you’ve tried to pass on your values, your work ethic, your hopes and dreams for their future and you are probably still paying for most of their expenses (especially if you have a Millennial) but, you can’t do this project for them. They have to do it on their own. You can help them scour job sites, help them write/edit the resume, maybe even pay for the career coaching sessions, open a few doors if you have personal connections and of course, worry as much as you like. But you have to leave the employer-employee relationship a parent-free zone. At the end of the day, your child has to apply for the job on their own. They have to be proactive, responsive, set up the meeting, show up the interview, answer the questions and meet the job requirements. And, once she gets the job, mom can’t come to work with you. And, since I am also a ‘real feminist’ too, Lisa, I know she can do it on her own.

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