Parents: Tips for Supporting Your College Graduate in These Uncertain Times

by Stephanie Thurrott

If you’re a parent of a recently graduated college student, you may find they are going through an unusually tough time. Instead of spending their final semester surrounded by their friends and immersed in the campus community, most students found themselves sheltered at home, finishing classes via remote learning. Graduations were missed, internships may have been canceled, and perhaps potential job opportunities were lost as businesses adapted to changing times.

They’re likely grieving what they lost and feeling apprehensive about the future.

Supporting your college graduate is important as they strive to navigate this challenging time. Here are a few tips to help encourage them during this season.

Communicate Often and Remain Patient

According to Kandy Mink Salas, Ph.D., program director for the Ed.D. in Higher Education Leadership and assistant professor in the Department of Higher Education at Azusa Pacific University, simply talking with your child can make a world of difference. It helps to acknowledge what they’re experiencing—and that they are not alone.

“Make space to talk with your child,” Mink Salas said. “Talking through their feelings of anxiety and grief is one of the best things a support person can do right now.”

Mink Salas also reminds parents to be patient. You’ve probably spent years reminding your student to work toward their goals—but now might not be the best time for that. She recommends that parents avoid adding additional pressure right now and instead focus on being supportive. In fact, she points to Romans 12:12 as a source of guidance: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, and be constant in prayer.”

“At times like this when the future can seem bleak and it’s hard to maintain hope, we can certainly maintain our hope in Christ,” Mink Salas noted. Parents should agree that this is a tough season, but remind graduates that it won’t last forever. “Our faith can sustain us,” she added.

Understand They’re Entering a Difficult Job Market

It goes without saying, but many recent graduates are feeling overwhelmed by the job market and the job search process. Those who had been promised positions or had solid leads are discovering that a lot of companies have paused hiring efforts. Those who weren’t as far along in the job hunting process may now feel like they’re even further behind.

In other economic downturns, recent college graduates have turned to positions in the travel or service industries. But even those opportunities are limited (or nonexistent) these days.

“Everything feels different now,” Mink Salas noted. The process of interviewing and landing a job is going to be delayed. If your child’s goal was to land a job by mid-summer, she recommends moving that expectation back by three, six, or even nine months.

All of this means parents and graduates may need to look closely at the family finances. Recent graduates who require a steady paycheck may turn to the types of jobs they held during college as they continue to look for their dream jobs.

They may also need to be flexible with their desired location. Some may need to move to another area to get a job in the field they want—thankfully, they can always move back later on when more opportunities open up.

Help Them Build Their Confidence and Connections

During these times, parents can do a lot to help graduates prepare to interview and work in a virtual environment. For instance, you and other family members can set up video calls to help them practice mock interviews. Every bit of experience helps!

You can also support your college graduate by providing the equipment (and space) they need. Working from home requires a good computer, a strong Wi-Fi signal, and a quiet space to focus. Mink Salas suggests working together as a family to create a plan for how (and when) everyone can feel confident sharing hardware, Wi-Fi, and space.

In addition to helping them prepare for interviews, you can use this time to support your child’s efforts to search for a job. “This is the perfect time to network,” Mink Salas explained.

When looking for new connections and professional opportunities, you can encourage your graduate to:

  • Reach out to their extended family, friends, and existing connections.
  • Update their LinkedIn profile with current experience and accomplishments.
  • Reach out to alumni in companies and industries they’re interested in to request informational interviews.
  • Connect with their school’s Career Center for assistance and advice.

Finally, Mink Salas advises parents to help their graduate structure the time they’ll spend job hunting and commit to a daily schedule. They might want to reach out to five people—or three alumni—each day as a way to keep moving forward.

Looking for more tips on supporting your college graduate? Encourage them to connect with APU’s Career Center or Office of Alumni Engagement for additional help.