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Preparing Your Kids for the Job Market 

Learn the difference between right and wrong. Respect your elders. Say “please and “thank you.” Work hard and be honest. Don’t give up and always try your best. Play nicely with others and learn how to share.

These are all lessons we teach our children so they will be prepared to be contributing members of society and generally good adults. Another opportunity to prepare your kids that is often overlooked is how to enter the job market and successfully navigate through their career.

In today’s job market, it is a tough place full of competition and opportunities. There is an array of methods to obtaining employment. These basic skills are important to their success: writing an effective resume, dressing appropriately and handling themselves in an interview setting. Teaching children how to conduct themselves in a professional manner in the workplace can be crucial to keeping the great job they just landed. Even more specific ideas like what college major to pick, what school to go to and how to get a good internship are great ways to help your children get ahead of their competition.

Let’s be honest, at some point your kids will likely start tuning you out, but if you can plant these seeds for success, you will be helping them more than they will know.

  • What degree should I get and what school should I go to? The answer here is to get them to expand their horizons and try to see all of the possibilities. Everyone knows about being a doctor, lawyer, race car driver or professional athlete. Do they know how to become a CFO, a quality engineer, or a photojournalist? At a young age try to get your kids to start thinking about what they enjoy in school. Teach them to be honest self-appraisers of their strengths and weaknesses. Tell them about the different types of jobs out there. Expose them to as much of the world as you can, then talk to them about it and get them THINKING.
  • When writing an entry level resume, be sure to include student organizations, sports teams, clubs or any awards received. Highlight the competitiveness of any internship and let the employer know what was actually learned or accomplished during the internship. Samples of upper level course work that is relevant to the job or a portfolio are excellent opportunities to show acquired skills.
  • Teach your kids to dress their best for a job interview…always! It does not matter if it is an entry level or executive level position; you want the employer to know you are putting your best foot forward. Now, along with this, they need to understand what appropriate attire for an interview is. Young men need a suit that fits correctly and a tie that can show off their personality, but is still on the conservative side. For ladies, groomed hair and judicious application of make-up and perfume are important basics. The dress or suit question matters less these days as long as it is professional and she is comfortable. Unfortunately, I do need to say this, cleanliness; well groomed fingernails and fresh breath may not get you a job, but if these areas are lacking it can really hurt your chances.
  • When speaking be clear and concise with confidence. Always maintain eye contact and show good energy and enthusiasm. The manner in which you respond to questions shows a hiring manager your level of engagement in the interview and interest in the opportunity. Finally, taking the time to send a brief email thanking the hiring manager for their time can differentiate them from the pack. Often, this simple indication of professionalism can demonstrate that even for an entry level candidate, they really “get it.”

Young adults & recent graduates, often lack the common business sense on how to conduct themselves. Once they have entered the professional world they can no longer use the “reply all” button, friend their boss on Facebook, use their email address of [email protected] or post last weekend’s party pictures on the web. Teach your kids to observe the social cues in their new work environment to determine accepted norms related to attire, communication and fraternization policies. These often “unspoken rules” are keys to creating successful professional perceptions in the workplace. One lesson my dad taught me was to “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” It is important to be seen as someone who is driven and motivated and your appearance contributes to this perception.

In the end, all we can do as parents is arm our children with as much information, insight and wisdom as possible. Once they have “grown up,” it will be time to learn many lessons on their own. We hope that we have taught them the difference between right and wrong, to respect their elders and to say “please” and “thank you.” We hope that they work hard and are honest. We hope they don’t give up and always try their best. At least we can know that we have given them the opportunity to get off on the right foot in their professional lives.

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