By Leigh Thompson, MBA – Launchgrad Consulting
During your child’s junior and senior year of high school, it’s easy to focus everything on getting into a “top choice” college. But what if college is just an important milestone, not the endgame? What if setting our students up to launch well AFTER college is what it’s all about?
Why think about life after college when your family is consumed with sports practices, theatre rehearsals, finding the SAT tutor, deciding how many APs to take, and visiting colleges? Because the reality for our young adults is that launching well is not a given. Over 50% of recent college grads are under– or unemployed; 75% carry students loans. Because paying rent and making student loan payments is tough when you work in a coffee shop, one-third of young adults live at home with their parents. Bottom line, students who take a long-term view during the late high school and college years are more likely to launch into future success.
What can parents of high school students do to move the goal line past college graduation and towards a good job and independence?
Share what you do.
Informational interviews are the most underutilized yet powerful job search tool. These short conversations are all about gathering information from someone in a field of interest. No amount of googling can top a face-to-face (or phone-to-phone) conversation between a student and someone currently employed in the trenches. Starting these dialogues with parents is a safe, low stress beginning. Many clients are so busy playing the “get into/do well in college” game that they’ve never really dialogued with mom and dad about their jobs. Tell your child how you picked your path, what obstacles and victories and pivots you’ve experienced along the way, and why your career fits you. Tell them what gets you excited about your work, what you like and don’t like about your work environment and colleagues. The more you share, the better they’ll understand how you connected your college experience to your own first job and how different the working world is from academia. And, once they’ve had these conversations with you, encourage them to talk with other family members and friends. Having worked with hundreds of students, I can count on one hand the number who landed a job without conversations with “insiders”. Starting informational interviews now sets them up for all kinds of productive conversations down the road. And, they just might have new respect for all you do to keep your family afloat – well, maybe that’s pushing it!
Help students define themselves beyond courses and extra-curriculars.
High school students are so busy with academics and extracurriculars, not to mention their 24/7 social lives. They have little time to reflect on strengths, talents and goals beyond the next test. When clients begin working with me, they typically label themselves according to their academic and extracurricular pursuits. “I’m a math-science kid” OR “I’m a sports person” OR “I’m artsy”. Parents can help students expand the aperture on how they view themselves. Help your math-science student discuss what it is about math and science that they enjoy. Do they enjoy analysis? Love concrete answers to problems? Enjoy setting up and working in the lab? Diving below the surface of the “math-science” description helps students identify innate talents, strengths, interests and, ultimately, good-fit career paths.
No doubt your high school student has a bright future ahead. Remember how fast your own four years of college blew by? Set your child up for long term success by moving the finish line out a bit – keep ultimate success after college in mind and your student will win the endgame.