This is the first year both my kids are away at college and grad school, and I can’t wait to have them home for Thanksgiving. I know they want to relax, and catch up on all the comforts of home. I want to enjoy my time with them… but I also want them to start planning for an internship next summer.

It’s tough when Mom is the “early career expert.” I don’t want to add more stress, but the market conditions are changing and becoming more competitive. I also know the hiring process for internships and first jobs starts early, and it takes time. Parents often ask me,

“We only have this short window of time together, but I need to make sure they know it’s important to be looking for a job now. How do I balance this concern and what do I say to them?”

The most important advice that I have learned is to “read the room.” Are they even willing to entertain this conversation? Are they ready to focus on this effort? Maybe they need to sleep in and see their friends. Or they are stressed about finishing the semester and need to get through finals. If so, it may be time to back off and come back to this discussion in a few weeks.

But if they are ready to talk, you can support them by giving them the opportunity to express what they are interested in and listening to their challenges and concerns. Very often, they lack clarity about what their own skills are and how they can apply them to job opportunities. As parents, you can help them figure out their skill set. Are they analytical? Are they great writers? Creative? Problem solvers? Help them figure out what that is. And help them pick their top three skills. Self-awareness for these students is a critical factor to success in the job search.

While they are home, encourage them to use the time to talk to family and tell them the skills they have to offer. Practicing their elevator pitch in a safe space among family and friends could help them gain confidence. Being curious about what others do is an important part of self-discovery that can help inspire them for different career paths.

And if they are not ready, then give them space. As much as it is stressful about the future of your student’s employment, you need to let them work through the process. It takes time, patience, and perseverance. The more you can support them and be a sounding board, they will start to realize how helpful you can be. Giving them an opportunity to move forward, and realize successes and/or failures, is what they need for their future independence.

If you want to get a head start and learn how to help them, get our Amazon #1 best-selling book The Next Great Step: The Parents’ Guide to Launching Your New Grad into a Career. You will have the confidence to offer sound advice that makes it easy… one step at a time.

I’ll let you know how it goes with my own kids.

Wishing you and your family a happy and peaceful holiday.