Dear Rene,

My 25-year-old son has been out of college for 3 years now and can’t seem to find a job.

Mark has an Engineering Degree but there are no jobs in his chosen field. For every position he applies to there are 500 other applicants, many of whom have previous experience.

He’s currently working as a waiter at a local Olive Garden and barely making ends meet. What money Mark makes barely keeps him afloat (we take a small amount as rent) and he still has a lot of college debt to pay off.

He’s getting more and more depressed and barely leaves the house now aside from work.

Can you offer any advice or solutions Rene?

Yours truly,

Worried Mom in Washington

Dear Worried:


Oh, that stinks! I can only imagine how frustrated Mark must be. Here he invested all this time and you, all this money in a degree and the two of you probably fear it is not going to pay off. Before I give you my advice it’s important to remember that in all things, in all situations, nothing stays the same forever. So here goes.

TAME THE FEAR: Fear is paralyzing and can rob you of the ability to think clearly which is critical. So first and foremost, put a leash on that beast! The way I do that is to lay out all the potential ways it could turn out, including the hairiest, scariest, most apocalyptic scenario. As it turns out, it doesn’t look so bad when you shine a bright light on it.

THROW OUT THE TIMETABLE: Remember when Mark was a baby and you took him to Gymboree? All the mothers were comparing notes on when their kids sat up, crawled, walked, were potty trained and so on. We do it initially to assure ourselves that our kid is developing normally but then it takes a sinister turn and though no one will admit it, the mom whose kid walked first struts around like he just cured cancer. That comparing notes doesn’t end once they get out of Pampers either. You and Mark both need to understand that everything happens when it is supposed to. That doesn’t mean you sit back and wait, but it does mean that you don’t put unnecessary stress on yourselves because he’s the only kid from the original Gymboree group still working for an hourly wage. Who cares?

BE REALISTIC: You say in your letter “there are no jobs in his chosen field.” I think what you mean to say is “there are no jobs in his chosen field THAT MEET HIS CRITERIA.”  Mark may have his choices too narrowly defined at a time he can’t afford to. He needs to be realistic about the type of job he can get. If he was hoping to land a management position with a starting salary of $65,000 a year plus benefits, stock options and a company car, well that’s just not going to happen, not right out of the gate anyway. You said for every job he applies to there are 500 applicants. You know what I would do if I were him? I’d be applying for engineering jobs in the most remote places, areas where no one else wants to go. Not only are his odds better, they might be so happy to see someone of his caliber that he could name his own price or at the very least have a bit more leverage.

TAKE ACTION: I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, you can’t steer a still ship. As a local news reporter there were times I was incredibly frustrated with my situation. What I found was that when I mapped out a strategy and did something everyday to further that goal, I felt more in control. Some days it was working on my resume, other days I would be sending out tapes or making calls. Mark needs to approach looking for a job as if it WERE a job. He should “clock in” everyday and spend a certain amount of time working toward his goal. Mark also needs to think outside the box by harnessing the power of social media and using it to his advantage. I would also join professional organizations and attend their events because so much of life is about contacts and connections. Instead of being a sterile piece of paper among 500 applicants Mark just might be “that nice young man I met at the mixer.” Believe me, it makes a difference.

Those are but a few ideas and I would go over this list with Mark as he might have a few of his own. The key is for you to continue to support him and help him take ownership of the situation which will empower him and make him feel like he has a say in his own destiny

Good luck, mommy!

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