An Alternative Graduation Speech for Parents of New College Grads

There ought to be a second graduation speech just for parents, in the afternoon,
after the celebratory lunch, while the kids are off whooping it up. It should go like this:
We know you have a great kid. We also know that, as amazing as she is, she may not
have a job lined up, and that this fact is eating away at you.

Oh, sure you may have heard that hiring on college campuses is up more than ten percent
from the past few economically horrendous years, but you’ve also heard that there are
still over 30 applicants for every job and a backlog of unemployed young people milling
round out there. You want to hear a speech full of practical advice about how you can
help your kid land a job. Here it is:

Get them to network in four different ways

You may have a bleak image in your mind: Your kid, sitting at the computer in your
house day after day, responding to online job listings. Is this the new job search, you
wonder? Thankfully no; that would be isolating and depressing. Your new grad will need
to use the computer and social media in her job search, but she will also need to get out
there and make connections with real people.

First, have her contact her college career center. Job opportunities these days
emanate from a diverse array of companies, far different from the Fortune 500 firms
that dominated the landscape when you first looked for work. Many career centers’
counselors are knowledgeable about these opportunities. They may also help her
compose her resume and cover letters; gain access to job and internships listings, and
companies’ recruiting systems; and learn how to use social media in her search. Luckily,
summer’s a quieter time for them. If she lives close enough to go in person, even better.

Next, suggest she join fellow alums of her alma mater on, after
establishing her own profile. This will allow her to connect with alums who
graduated within a few years of her, and to see what career paths they have taken. If they
have listed their college major, she’ll be able to search by that, too. She may find that
fellow alums are eager to help her once she has a better idea of what she’s looking for.

After that, she ought to visit the local Chamber of Commerce or State Office of Business Development,
where employees can direct her to a wealth of information on local companies and potentially even
opportunities for freelancers.

Lastly, have her seek informational interviews, in which she can learn how people in careers that interest her got their start, or what skills they deem important to their success. If you know someone in such a field, you could ask if they’d be open to talking with her. She should go in with thoughtful, focused questions. One warning: If your kid has never before emailed someone to ask for this particular favor, guide him in composing his first request so that he doesn’t naively ask too much of the person, as in, “Hi, I’d love to hear everything you know about becoming an entrepreneur.”

Convince them to do some research

Especially in the early days after graduation, many grads find it useful to initiate broad
Google searches, such as: “What kind of jobs can a psychology major do?” Get yours
to also stop by your largest local public library, and speak to the (always very helpful)
business librarian. He or she can direct your child to databases, like, which
contain vast amounts of information on industries, companies and their competitors.

The job search will be faster if your new grad taps into all of these resources. Example: while visiting the Chamber of Commerce, your daughter learns of a local start-up that has recently received a large contract. She researches its competition at the library, and discovers, on, a fellow graduate who has done freelance consulting for the firm. He gives her insight into its culture and goals, which helps your daughter go into an interview far better-informed than other applicants. He may also give her ideas on which Community College courses prepared him to be an effective freelancer.

Clue them in to what employers want to hear

When new grads hear about a particularly appealing job, they often get caught up in
how happy it would make them to land it. What they neglect to focus on is: what kind
of applicant, with what skills and personal qualities, is most likely to get the job? Offer
to read through job listings with your grad and say, “Here’s what I think they’re looking
for in an employee.” Emphasize that interviewers are looking not only for enthusiastic
applicants, but also for ones who are focused on what they have to offer the company.

Urge them to learn one new skill a month

When your son sits down for an interview, the prospective employer may ask him what he’s been doing since he graduated. “Looking for a job,” he’ll say. How much more impressive if he can add: “I also learned Java and how to design a website,” The more talents he has, the more marketable he is. He’ll also come across as resourceful, a go-getter who will find ways to contribute to his team.

Assure them they will get hired if they persevere

There may well be days when you get as frustrated as your child with her continued
lack of a job. Perhaps you come home after work to find her acting as if she has given
up: parked glumly in front of the TV, or on Facebook. Worse, you’ve just talked to a few
friends whose own new grads found work (for seemingly vast sums of money). If at
those moments you can be supportive, you’ll help her to get back out there the next day.

Remind yourself that just as not all kids learned to walk exactly the same week of their
lives, they won’t all master job-hunting the same week. Swear to your child that her time
will come—as long as she persists in networking, researching, and mastering new skills.

Now tell them they own the job search

Never invest more time in your kid’s quest to find a job than he is. It’s one thing
(reasonable) to offer to proofread his resume. It’s another to actually compose it for him.
If you are the one googling what careers math majors can have, or the one tracking down
alums from his college for him to email, how will he learn to research or network on his
own behalf? He needs to develop these skills for the next time, when he’s ready to jump
further up the career ladder.

Okay, that’s the speech. Now you can drive off into the sunset with your kid, back home
for a short while–until he sets off on his own for good. And maybe, just maybe, five
years down the road, your one-time new grad will be offering you career advice.


  1. Lauren Nise says:

    Great advice! Learning one new skill a month benefits students, employers and parents. A triple win all around!

  2. While students are searching, I would encourage them to take additional English composition and any kind of public-speaking/speech classes, to further hone those “excellent communication skills” listed on their resume. Unfortunately, proper spelling and grammar is a rarity these days.

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