Share this article

print logo

'Helicopter parents' hover as children search for jobs

At a Sacramento, Calif., job fair last fall, the polished, well-dressed woman went from booth to booth, recruiter to recruiter, passing out resumes, asking about job openings. Not for herself, however. For her son.

"He just graduated. He has a degree. He's sharp. He doesn't know what he wants to do, but I think he'd be good at HR (human resources)," recalls Preet Kuar, a Manpower company recruiter who spoke with the mom.

For baby boomer parents, who have diligently -- some would say obsessively -- followed their children from diapers to diplomas, that encounter was perhaps the next logical phase of so-called "helicopter parenting."

Clearly, parental hovering doesn't end at college graduation but continues well into the job hunt. According to a recent survey of more than 3,000 employers by the Collegiate Employment Research Institute, or CERI, based at Michigan State University, about a third -- 31 percent -- of companies report that parents are more involved in their son's or daughter's career search than prior to the recession.

Mom and dad are chatting up their kids' credentials with company officials, pestering college career staff, handing out their kids' resumes at career fairs, even showing up at job interviews.

"It's happening quite a bit, actually," said Kuar, executive recruiter with Manpower's Gold River office. "We see a lot more parent involvement," everything from setting up job counseling appointments to forwarding their kid's resume.

The causes of extended parental hovering are partly ingrained, partly economic. Accomplished, go-getter baby boomer parents, experts say, are accustomed to being decisive in every aspect of their child's life.

But it's also due to a job-scarce economy, which has heightened anxiety levels among adults and their college-educated kids, many of whom have moved home to save money while hunting for work.

Last year, the average annual rate of unemployment among 20- to 24-year-olds was 14.6 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's well above the 8.9 percent average unemployment rate among all adults.

Given that, it's not surprising that baby boomer parents are doing their utmost to get junior a job.

It leaves some recruiters appalled. "I would not be comfortable with parents showing up [for an interview]. It shows the child -- the young adult -- is not taking responsibility," said Dave Watson, business manager for River City Staffing. "If someone walked in the door with their child, I'd ask the parent to leave."

There's another facet to helicopter parenting at this stage of a young person's life.

"The underlying phenomenon is very deep and pervasive: People in their teens and 20s are getting along with their parents much better than previous generations. They watch the same movies, listen to the same music, wear the same brand-name clothing," said Neil Howe, a corporate consultant and author of "Millennials in the Workplace."

Unlike baby boomers, known for rebelling against their parents in the '60s and '70s, many in this generation view their parents more as friends.

Howe said the trend to welcome parent involvement started a decade ago with military recruiters, who realized they had better retention results if parents were engaged in the recruitment process.

Howe advises employers to go along with uber-involved parents.

"Accept that parents will remain actively involved in millennials' lives," he writes. "Instead of trying to block their efforts, employers should embrace it," by offering parental visiting days, parent newsletters or even a parent section on the company website.