My father made it clear to me that I had better be sure I could make it on my own before I left. With the exception of spending summer breaks back home between college years, my dad made sure I knew his house was not a nest I could return to once I officially moved out. Unlike the helicopter parents that are so common these days, he didn’t believe in hovering nor in taking his four boys back into his household once we left. Indeed he gave me loans from time to time as I clawed my way to maturity. He co-signed for my first car, paid my first year of college and took me out to eat a lot. But these were gifts I knew I wasn’t entitled to. I received them with gratefulness.
I’m thankful for Dad’s rule of not taking me back in. It caused me to prepare for my launch with a sink or swim mentality. If you have a son and this sounds harsh, chances are you’re a softee. I know, I’m going to catch a lot of slack from helicopter parents. But that’s the price of challenging parents to re-think their launching strategies.
Granted, my father didn’t have daughters. He may have changed his policy had he raised a girl. Finding myself a dad of both genders I have stricter standards for my son than I do my three daughters. I wanted him to learn to make it out there without a net to catch him—and he did. My grown son has learned how to take care of himself and has lived on his own for several years. I’m proud of the man he’s become. But he didn’t get there without some help.
As he reached adulthood I had the advantage of knowing his exact launch date. My wife and I were moving overseas for a few years so I knew how much time I had and the exact calendar date when my son needed to be prepared to launch into the world and make it on his own.
Faced with this accelerated task, I had to choose which life skills were most important and which could be learned later (either by me or through his own life experience).
I had the advantage of a son who trusted me when I offered advice. You may not have that relationship with your son. If that’s the case it’s going to be difficult to speak into his life at all. Try anyway. Perhaps a smidge of counsel will take root. At the very least, you can say you tried.
Today let’s talk about the first of an eight part series. These are skills any son needs to learn while he’s still perched on the edge of your nest trying out his feathers. It’s certainly not an exhaustive list but these are starting points in order to give him a successful departure.
I’ll be the first to admit there’s a different standard out there these days. People show up for job interviews sporting camo shorts and face piercings. Younger employers don’t seem to mind. In fact they often have more tattoos than the potential employee.
While outward appearance may no longer require nice slacks and a tie, employers still prefer someone who sits up and speaks clearly with a confident (not arrogant) attitude. Teach your son to dress as if he’s got an interview, even if he’s just picking up an application.
Coach him about what to take in order to fill out a job application. A resume isn’t a replacement for a standard application. He should be prepared that some jobs want it all on their own forms and don’t want a resume. Still, attaching one to the completed application will only make him look sharper than the other applicants. Most applications require a complete job history with gaps in employment explained. Mailing addresses for each employer and phone numbers will be expected.
Train him to have the courage to get past the gatekeeper (the Administrative Assistant) and ask if he can hand the application or resume to the manager or HR person doing the hiring. Often just a firm handshake and eye contact sets you apart from all the other unseen applicants.
Until the position is filled, train your son to understand the importance of calling back and bugging the employer weekly until he gets an interview or a firm “No, thank you. You’re not right for the job.”
During a first interview, your son should never ask about the salary or rate of pay. Nor should he ask about health insurance or other fringe benefits. Reserve those valid concerns for the second interview or phone call.
I see a lot of parents sabotage their son’s success by being involved too much in their son’s employment. One mother actually went with her son to the interview answering some of the questions for him. When he began having problems at work the dad came in to negotiate a compromise as if the boss were his son’s school teacher. This couple failed to understand they were emasculating their child every time they stepped in to rescue him. He never could keep a job more than six months. Almost fifty, he hasn’t worked in decades. His parents still bail him out when he’s in need. It’s called failure to launch.
My father was strict but he taught me early how to survive in a world that does not have my best interests in mind. I watched him enjoy his retirement without having to worry about supporting me. He died knowing all of us boys had survived the launch.