Smart Living | Digital Parenting

Digital Parenting | 17 Jun 2024

How to help your child find their first job

Whether they're school leavers or graduates, entering employment and the world of work can be tough for teens and 20-somethings. These expert tips could help give them a leg up.

We all know the scenario. Your child is eager to land their first paying job and applies for posts that are advertised as ‘entry level’. All too soon, they find that ‘entry level’ does not mean that at all – they lose out every time to candidates with many years of experience.

In a competitive marketplace, how can young people overcome the conflicting facts that they do not have the experience they need to get a job – but need the job to get the experience?

It’s a situation that Victoria McLean, CEO of career consultancy City CV, calls a “classic Catch-22”. However, she believes that savvy young people, helped by their parents, can negotiate the difficult world of first jobs by being “creative and a bit resourceful”.

“Parents can play a crucial role,” she says, emphasising how their help with everything from interview practice to networking can improve a young person’s chances of employment success.

Here, experts explain how you can best support your child as they enter the working world.

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Open the ‘treasure chest’

The key to helping your child ace their first interviews is helping them to understand the value of the experience they’ve gained outside the workplace.

McLean, at City CV, suggests helping them to imagine their lives so far as a “treasure chest of skills and experiences”. Captaining the football team, hosting a school event, or participating in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award are all examples of projects that can enhance a young person’s CV.

Dean Sadler, Founder and CEO of recruitment software group of Tribepad agrees that highlighting transferable skills can make your children more employable. “Taking 20 rowdy Scouts on a camping trip shows a level of organisation, maturity and dedication that potential employers will be impressed with,” he promises.

Support unpaid placements

Paid work may be hard to come by, but internships and volunteer placements can make your child more employable, so supporting them while they carry these out is a valuable parental task.

“Although internships and volunteer placements are unpaid, you can learn some valuable, transferable skills in the process,” says Shona Hamilton-Higgins, CEO of recruitment consultancy Lilac HR.

“They show excellent initiative and drive, which is what most employers want – they just don’t put it on the job description!”

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Find them a mentor

Parental guidance is important, but the input of expert adults who are not related to your child can help them to land the placement they want.

Emily McGuire, career coach at Reflections Career Coaching, says that mentors are particularly valuable at “transition points” such as when you leave education to find your first job.

“Mentors are an impartial source of guidance and support, who use their experience to help you navigate your career path”.

Parents may have their own networks to help their children to find mentors, or McGuire suggests looking at organisations such as The Prince’s Trust, which matches young people with suitable mentors.

Sadler, at Tribepad, suggests turning to the internet as well.

“Platforms like LinkedIn or industry-specific forums can be great places to connect with professionals. And teachers, professors, or career advisers often make excellent mentors or can connect you with one.”

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Encourage a passion project

If your child can’t find relevant work or unpaid experience elsewhere, starting their own project can give them an edge in interviews.

Andrew Fennell, head of CV advice and builder service StandOutCV suggests creating a photography portfolio for a creative role, or a blog for a copywriting job.

Sadler, at Tribepad, suggests encouraging your child to code something if they want a role in tech, or to start a TikTok channel if marketing is their passion.

Help with a standout CV

Parents can really come into their own when it comes to more traditional recruitment tools such as CVs, where their children may have limited experience of how to sell themselves in a professional context.

“Look at things like Canva for CVs to really stand out, also check spelling and grammar and if you can, find a reference or two,” says careers coach Natalie Trice.

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Know when to back off

Helping your child with their job search is one thing – doing it for them is quite another.

Tracey Beveridge, HR Director at DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checking firm Personnel Checks, warns that children who aren’t allowed to stand on their own two feet will not go far.

“It is important to help, but not try to take over,” she says. The helicopter parent who contacts companies on behalf of their children and intervenes in negotiations is unlikely to further their children’s case.”

Recruitment consultant Trice agrees.

“I really believe that, as parents, we have a lot to offer our children. But do give them space and independence to find their way whilst letting them know you are there to help them when they need your guidance and support,” she says.

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