I was once at a university careers fair where I saw a man go from stall to stall asking the recruiters serious and well thought out questions, enquiring about openings and getting an insight into company culture. Ordinarily I would commend such a person on their attitude and preparation, only this wasn’t a student. No, this was the student’s father. The poor girl, who was sheepishly going along with her father to each stall, looked rightly embarrassed and awkward in equal measures.
If this poor student was to ever meet any of these recruiters again at an assessment centre or in the interviewer’s room, not only would she be mortified, but they would already be thinking “How can I use this student if someone else does the leg-work for her? How will I be able to trust her with any clients?” Her father had already blown it for her.
If you want your parents to help you start your career in finance, this is how they should go about it.
1. Parents shouldn’t be the ones putting all the effort in
Employers don’t want someone who can’t stand on their own two feet. If you’re a parent, don’t walk your child around a careers fair, don’t go into an interview with them and definitely don’t follow up on their behalf. It won’t work. It will make them look weaker.
Trust them. Let them do it on their own. If they want a job (and they have to want it) support them in their endeavours, but don’t take over. If life’s a play, the leading role is theirs, don’t steal it from them.
2. Parents should encourage and push, but not force
Parents should feel free to point out useful resources. They should suggest a child visits their careers service sooner rather than later. They have extra years of wisdom and you can see things in hindsight that children cannot.
It’s ok for parents to push if they need to. If children intend to move home, make them pay rent. Let them see that life could be better if they moved on, but let them find their own path. They will work harder if it’s for something they really want to do. If they don’t want to do it, maybe ask yourself why you’re trying to make them do it. Being forced into an unhappy career will only delay the inevitable and set them back in life if/when they later quit.
3. Parents can network
This is perhaps the most valuable thing that parents can do for their children.
Parents can network for children. They can talk to their friends and colleagues about their child’s job search. A parental recommendation can be an ice-breaker, but once doors have been opened, let children walk through them alone.
4. Parents can research
Parents can do some background research. So your child is interested in finance? – Would they prefer to work in investment banking, private banking or trading and sales? Would they prefer to work for a full-service firm like J.P.Morgan or a boutique firm like Lazard? The advantages of working at a larger bank include well-developed training programmes and the possibility of lateral job changes and working overseas. The downside of large firms are that it’s harder to gain exposure to senior dealmakers and your contribution can be lost in a large class of analysts and associates. Smaller banks have much grater exposed to senior members and clients, but they often have weaker support services and you can be limited by the bank’s area of specialisation. A parent’s research can make sure children don’t simply opt for the highest paid positions.
5. Parents can motivate and direct
Discuss internships. Your child may already know this, but internships are becoming increasingly important in providing a path to employment, especially in banking. Help reinforce their self-esteem, point out their qualities that employers will be looking for (and help them think of working examples of when they have demonstrated them).
6. Parents can run practice interviews
Investment banking interviews can be notoriously tough. Parents (and their friends) can help hone children’s interview technqiue.
Don’t just practice clichéd questions, find out what is usually asked in interviews for junior positions in investment banks. Does your son/daughter know how to sell their best qualities? With greater experience you might have a better insight into what employers want, so help them practice their pitch!
7. Parents can pay
Excessive financial support for children who’ve left university can be a bad thing. It can disempower them and remove any motivation to go out and find work. However, paying for a week of expensive accommodation in the City during an unpaid internship will be a bonus. So will a contribution towards a financial services Masters qualification, or studying the CFA Level 1.
If you want to help your child get a start in finance, a lot of the rules you need to follow are the same as they would be in other sectors, but with a fiercely competitive recruitment process, it is even more important to maximize every opportunity. You have to strike a balance when helping your child. You need to motivate, to direct and support, but it is their burden, not yours. Don’t make them so comfortable at home that they’ll never want to leave.
Jack Shardlow is the chief editor of Interview Bull Blog. Interview Bull provides affordable and personalised online interview coaching, specifically designed for students and recent graduates. Interview Bull’s experienced HR experts coach ambitious students to get the jobs they want through success at interview.