For several years I have presented How to Get Fired! on college campuses across the country, where I try to help college students prepare for their professional life by telling them everything they shouldn’t do once they apply for and then receive a job. Tucked into my suggestions that they should show up drunk, write everything like it’s a text, and skip work on days they just don’t feel like doing anything, I also encourage them to bring their parents to interviews as a way to show employers how completely incapable they are of doing anything on their own.
Now, it seems like I might be losing that fight. The Wall Street Journal just published an article in which some companies have actually started encouraging parents to become a part of their children’s career. To be fair, half of these things are various versions of Bring Your Parents to Work Day, which seems like a great way to position a company as a family environment and not simply a place to get a paycheck until you find another place to get a paycheck. When your child interns at a company that then invites you to visit the campus and have cookies with management, you’ll naturally think it’s a great place to work and encourage your kids to make their career there – exactly what any company should want its talented interns to eventually do.
The other half, though, is so depressing that I would actually beat my head against the wall if I thought it would do any good. To quote the Wall Street Journal, “A 2012 survey of more than 500 college graduates by Adecco, a human-resources organization, found that 8% of them had a parent accompany them to a job interview, and 3% had the parent sit in on the interview.”
I’m writing this article in the midst of a government shutdown, at a time when many in our great nation are saying that the democratic experiment is in jeopardy. Personally I think we’ll find a solution without defaulting. But if parents keep showing up to job interviews with their kids, then I really do think America will soon sink into the ocean. So, in a last-ditch effort to save my country from The Day After Tomorrow, here goes.
To any parents reading this: I know you only want what’s best for your kids. I know you want them to have the happiest, most successful life possible. But if you are even remotely considering the idea of accompanying your grown children to their job interviews, then you have managed to raise a child that even you don’t think is capable of making intelligent decision on his or her own. And if you doubt their abilities, what is a random hiring manager going to think? Give them the freedom to learn and fail and grow and – gasp! – maybe even succeed all by themselves. If you don’t, then all you’ll guarantee is that they never grow up. And while I loved Peter Pan as much as the next 5-year old, eventually the green tights start to look a little out of place.
To any 20-somethings reading this: I know that the prospect of your first job is a terrifying one. It’s the first time most of us are truly out on our own. I appreciate how comfortable your old bedroom might look, and I’m totally fine if you keep sleeping there. But when it comes to your career, it will be impossible for anyone to take you seriously if you can’t even swing the interview without someone there to pat your hand when the questions get really hard. To again quote the Wall Street Journal, “Lauren Bailey, a 22-year-old graduate of the State University of New York at Albany…[can’t] imagine taking her parents to an interview or a company recruiting event. ‘I know I’m young, but at some point I have to make my own decisions.’” You know when that point is? It’s right now. It happened when the world starting thinking of you as a fully articulated adult. It happened when you got old enough that you could go to prison – the big-person kind, the kind of prison that your parents can’t get you out of by promising to drive you home this instant and give you a stern talking-to.
And to any hiring managers reading this: I know you need talent. I know that despite our higher-than-average unemployment, there is a genuine shortage of talented workers in all number of industries. But the people you’re looking for are not bringing their parents into interviews. The applicants doing so are either incapable of dressing themselves or have been so thoroughly oppressed by their parents that they just do mutely whatever they’re told. If you’re looking to hire people who continually need to be told what to do, or if you want puppets to whom you can dictate your every whim, then go for it. If you want people who will think for themselves and occasionally come up with elegant solutions no one else is going to think of, you won’t find them clinging to their parents’ arms in your waiting room.
There. With any good luck, this article will help us all stave off the apocalypse. Now I just need to send it to my dad and see what he thinks of it. I hope he likes it. If he doesn’t, I’m just not sure what I’m going to do with myself.
Oh wait. Yes I am. I’m going to submit it for your judgment anyway and see what happens.