Tag Archives: Helicopter parents

LinkedIn: leave those kids alone!

admissions_year7_1

In an attempt to attract younger users to a new university section of the website, LinkedIn has reduced its minimum age limit for members from 18 years to as low as 13 years of age in some geographies. Coming into effect from September 12th, the age limits will vary according to statutory requirements  in different countries:  14 years old: United States, Canada, Germany, Spain, Australia and South Korea, 16 years old: Netherlands, 18 years old: China.

13 years old: All other countries

A number of measures have been taken to “safeguard the experience of LinkedIn members under the age of 18″ with additional precautions for privacy. Their profiles will not appear in search engines and neither will their ages be published in the public domain.  Profiles will be displayed   “first name, last name initial, and general region”.

This has produced a flurry of debate in the blogsphere and amongst the Twittererati.

Is this a good thing?  The jury is out.

Dilution

There are many who think having an influx of 13-18 year olds will dilute the professional content of the site. Concern that high-flying execs will be bombarded by a veritable flood of text speak about  dates, discos and school projects is anticipated.  Just a short conversation with my 16-year-old neighbour made that possibility seem remote.  The signature simultaneous rolling of eyes and raising of eyebrows, to the unspoken “whatever” pretty much said it all.

It has been some years since my kids were 13, but chances are that Mum and Dad saying  “go and complete your really fun LinkedIn profile after you’ve done your homework ”  will be met with equal derision.

Will we see a deluge of disruptive teen activity on LinkedIn in the next months?  I suspect not. I have to plead with MBA candidates to set up a professional profile and they are generally more than twice their age,  let alone Year 7 or 8th and 9th graders.  Kids are hardwired to rebel against anything parents think are cool or necessary. That is the whole point of being a teenager.  This is their time to hang out,  have acne and find their own way.  My nephew is 13. Do I think a priority in his life should be his online professional presence or crafting a succinct value proposition?

No I don’t.  Not unless it relates to the U14 cricket team. His response to whether he would like a LinkedIn profile was ” What’s LinkedIn?  Is this about jobs and stuff?”

Parents

I suspect that much of this will be centred around the parents.

One dad told me “My son (13) can have a professional profile when he knows what to do with it and how to handle the process appropriately.  At the moment he doesn’t understand the implications of online activity or the  potential repercussions of any mistakes.  He’s simply too young.”

Another spin-off of this development will be that its taps into the essence of that ever-growing demographic:  the pushy,  helicopter parent. I have no doubt that whole hosts of  “yummy mummies” and “driving dad’s”  will be creating adult style profiles for their coddled offsprings in an effort to create a perfect CV.  Will the next dinner party conversation be centred around the number of hits their kids have had on their junior LinkedIn profiles in the last seven days? I’ll put money on it! These are the kids who will be offered a rotation of internships with the friends of their super connected parents by the age of 18 to build up impeccable credentials. That is on top of their funded trips to dig wells in Africa and build homes for underprivileged families in Eastern Europe.

The aim of the new ‘University Pages’ feature  is to give prospective students access to information about colleges, plus the ability to connect with other students and alumni.  That is all fine.  I am all for a more strategic approach to careers and definitely think university is the time for this to kick in.

But for me 13 is far too young.  How many thirteen year olds go to university anyway? The last two years of high school allows plenty of time to start being a career-focused grown up.

Let them be teenagers

Protecting kids from inappropriate internet activity is fine and dandy but most are on Facebook anyway,  so I’m not sure what difference this will make.   Teenage years should be spent worrying about kissing with braces, debates about who to take to the prom and thinking your lab partner is a nerd. With a bit of luck there might be a passing interest in grades and homework.

Their mission at this point in their lives is to be embarrassed by their parents. Not attempting to be their clones.  This is how it absolutely should be. Just as crawling before walking is a vital developmental function, this is a rite of passage and a necessary part of the maturing process to independence.

This is before we even start to explore the impact of the gap created between teens who don’t have professionally savvy parents, who will get left even further behind.

What do you think?

Gen Y – how you stock your fridge can be important to your career!

In the absence of her manager, I was recently asked to sit in on some graduate entry-level interviews to support and mentor, Tanya, a new addition to the Talent Management team of an international company. As we mapped out the structure of our individual roles, Tanya’s proposed line of questioning took me by surprise!

Who stocks the fridge?
While I was assigned to cover the traditional HR areas, transferable skills, communication ability, future goals, leadership potential and so on, Tanya’s line of questioning came from a totally different angle. She intended to throw in to the interview pot questions on where/how candidates bought their groceries, where they lived and what they ate and cooked.

I must have looked faintly mystified. That is important because…? She clarified: “Some entry-level candidates are babied by their parents. They order their kids groceries for them on-line with home delivery. They set up accounts in takeaways, shops and restaurants with the bills being sent to Mum and Dad. They arrange for cleaners or even come to clean their kids houses/rooms themselves.  Some candidates wouldn’t recognise an egg in its shell, let alone know how to cook one. They live off junk food. Some mothers freeze and label a month’s worth of dinners and put them their kid’s freezers!   One candidate told me how he had been told off by a delivery man for paying a £2.50 delivery charge on a £2.00 item, rather than go out in the rain. The more wealthy parents buy their children houses and apartments, so they can live in a nice area.  Even parents who are not well off get into debt.

Exceptions
Aged 28, Tanya is a relatively recent graduate herself and as she gently reminded me, more in touch with what really goes on with her generation. Her own recent student experiences gives her an insight into the way some candidates have lived during their student days. She was quick to add: “Clearly not all are like that so it’s important to sort them out. This is just another way of identifying which ones are independent and can stand on their own 2 feet, or which ones are still firmly bound to their parents.  We need candidates who are self – sufficient practically and psychologically. It’s a skill to be able to balance all your domestic chores with your professional commitments and we don’t want candidates who can’t cope”

Helicopter parents
I am of course very familiar with helicopter parents in the recruitment process, so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that if parents are involved in these procedures then they are also pro-active in their lives as students. But it did! All students are delighted to have the odd cake or pie from home (I was!) but their weekly groceries? I think I would have thought I had died and gone to heaven!

So although parents think they are supporting their offspring, this is just another way of depriving them of learning valuable life skills  (budgeting, time management, prioritising, healthy living, becoming a judicious consumer to name only a few) which can impact their careers if they are not in place. As the interviews unfolded a surprising number did come unstuck.

I think I learned as much from Tanya as she did from me.

Helicopter parents crash into the workplace

Helicopter parents

I have  been somewhat bemused by the spate of   articles over the last weeks advising managers and recruiters how to treat helicopter parents in the workplace.  I do have to confess however, to quashing a particularly strong maternal urge last year to hop on the Eurostar to give my son’s boss a piece of my mind. At best he was a truly lousy manager, at worst a bully. You will be pleased to hear common sense prevailed.

Interfering or intervening?
Yesterday, I was quite taken aback by a call from a well spoken woman who introduced herself as Nina. After some solicitous enquiries about disturbing me (she wasn’t), my health (I was fine) expanding, she announced she was the mother of Christian,  a candidate I seemingly had the temerity to cut from an interview process at the end of last week. Apparently, according to Mme Nina, I had overlooked many of  petit Christian’s superlative qualities. She  politely wondered if I had the depth of insight, or indeed the very qualifications required to make such a judgement call. I was kindly therefore prevailed upon, in the nicest possible way, to reinstate him “tout de suite” .

Time wasting
It took me a good 30 seconds to  process the implications of this dialogue. I should tell you that Christian is 26 years old, probably stands at 1m 85 in his socks  and had grossly exaggerated his accomplishments, to the point where fact and fiction are completely blurred  in his petit head. He and the CV writer, possibly Mama Nina,  had wasted a number of people’s time, including mine.

I have also observed a recent trend of moving away from being exasperated with this reluctance to cut the umbilical cord,  to one of understanding and even in some cases to accommodating  this new parenting style.  Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters said as far back as 2008 HR teams should turn this trend to their advantage by striking up a relationship with the families of new recruits and accepting that winning the backing of parents can considerably smooth the path,” 

He continued   “While I wouldn’t expect to see quite so much involvement by parents once the young person gets to his second or third job, it’s best not to be too rigid about these things. It is quite acceptable for people in their mid-20s to still want loads of backing from home.”

Men and women
There are indeed very valid cases where young adults need more parental  support than would be expected at their age:  learning difficulties, health issues or disabilities come to mind. But for fully functioning, above average IQ men and women  (because this is what they are) I realise that  I am clearly out of step with the zeitgeist. I still remain firmly in the “exasperated” camp  and see this accommodation of a co-dependent trend not just as a worrying infantilisation of the work place, but also damaging to the candidates themselves.  So I urge:

Parents please:

  • Don’t write your child’s CV for him/her. They will not own their own message and fall at the first hurdle
  • Don’t send your child’s resume to prospective employers on his or her behalf. They should do that themselves.
  • Don’t call employees advocating for your offspring whether for the position itself or compensation package.  It will generally lead straight to the reject heap.  You are depriving them of learning valuable skills.
  • Don’t  accompany junior to an interview, job fair or  any other meeting in the process. This will in many cases be the kiss of death for him/her.

In the words of Pink Floyd  ” leave them kids alone

GenY please:

  • Do take responsibility for your own career strategy. Be clear about your boundaries with Mum and Dad.
  • If you need mentoring or help and your parents are too invasive,  look for a neutral professional. If you struggle financially,   maybe your parents can step in – but as a loan. Make a formal loan  agreement and make sure you pay it back.
  • Do not be afraid to fail or change your mind. Make your own decisions and accept  (and pay for) the consequences.
  • If you feel afraid to make a decision without  the deep involvement of Mum and Dad – perhaps there is a need talk to someone outside your family. Can friends or even a professional support you?

The parents of most Millenials are generally out of touch with the job search skills required in today’s market place and in many cases are  mis-advising their kids in a number of areas. Intervening (interfering?) is not doing their children any service, but depriving them of vital life lessons which contribute to their maturity and workplace value.  They are: independence,  sense of achievement,  self-reliance, the ability to work autonomously,  the ability to self advocate, the ability to plan for themselves and to think strategically,  a willingness to learn from failure and the capacity to successfully move on.

Like babies who  need to crawl before they can walk,  these early career knocks are key developmental experiences. Culturally we are in danger of creating a generation which will struggle to be self-reliant.

What do you think?