For those of you in your last semester of college or university, it’s spring and you probably feel like celebrating. You’ve spent the past few years working hard (or maybe not that hard) and you’re looking forward to a break from classes, papers and exams.
Perhaps you’re planning a summer vacation. Or maybe, you’re doing some serious thinking about your future and your next steps toward a brilliant career.
Graduation ceremonies will soon be taking place all across Canada and the US. Young people will be donning their caps and gowns and receiving their diplomas. Commencement addresses will be made.
Sadly, many of the people who’ll be giving these addresses won’t be telling you the most important thing you need to hear.
Yes, they’ll congratulate you on your accomplishments. Maybe they’ll even mention how things are tough out there and how you’ll need to be prepared for a significantly more competitive marketplace.
The most important thing they aren’t telling you is that your attitudes, expectations and habits are to a great extent what will make you or break you in your future working life.
And frighteningly, the people giving these commencement addresses aren’t letting you in on the difficulties you’ll face if you’ve developed counterproductive attitudes, expectations and habits from having been raised by helicopter parents.
What most (if not all) of these speech-givers aren’t saying is that if you’ve grown up with parents who overprotected you, did too much for you, and made you feel like everything was coming to you, you’re going to be at an even greater disadvantage than the average graduate in today’s marketplace.
Helicopter parents make it much too easy for their college-age kids. They load up their cafeteria card so the kid never has to cook; they send their kid care packages of food and clothing so that the kid never has to worry about these things. What this does is prevent the kid from learning how to stand on their own two feet as an adult.
Helicopter parents shield their kids from difficulties, often intervening when their kid gets a bad mark or fails a class. What this does is teach the young person that they never have to be accountable for themselves and never have to face the consequences of their actions.
These helicopter parents love their kids but they’re doing them a terrible disservice, as their kids are coming out of college and university lacking the basic skills and mindset that will set them up for success.
The current research shows that Millenials earn less than their parents did. A 2013 article by J. Maureen Henderson, in Forbes Magazine says that, according to the Progressive Policy Institute, annual “earnings for college grads have declined by $10K since 2000.”
Ms. Henderson writes about how, “according to the American Psychological Association, millennials are the most stressed generation, with a sobering 52% claiming that anxiety was causing them sleepless nights.”
In a May 2017 article about helicopter parenting that I wrote for Huffington Post, I quote a study by the Journal of Child and Family Studies, which found that “college students who experienced helicopter parenting reported higher levels of depression.”
In her article, Ms. Henderson quotes a study from the University of Waterloo’s Professor Markus Moos, who found that “a young person ‘with the same degree, the same job and the same demographic profile is earning less today than they were in the 1980s’ and that reality applies to both white-collar office jobs and those in the service industry. ”
Ms. Henderson also quotes Professor Moos as saying that young people “have to realize, given the findings in the study” “that they’re actually going to have a slightly lower standard of living than their parents.
A January 2017 article in USA Today stated that “millenials earn 20 percent less than boomers did at the same stage of life, despite being better educated.”
Worse yet, the article states that although “education does help boost incomes,” “the median college-educated millennial with student debt is only earning slightly more than a baby boomer without a degree did in 1989.”
It’s clear that these are challenging times for young grads, but the situation is made worse when these grads have parents who’ve been hovering around them, doing too much for them and over-protecting them for their entire lives.
So, if you’re a new grad, what does this mean for you? It means that you’re going to have to work that much harder and smarter in order to simply equal your parents’ level of financial success.
If you don’t want to be left behind in the dust, you’re going to have to examine the attitudes, expectations and habits you’re bringing to your work life.
If you’re a child of helicopter parents, the future will be even less rosy than it is for your peers, unless you start making some significant changes, right now.
Many young people who were raised by helicopter parents have an attitude of overly-entitlement. They don’t think that they have to be held accountable for their actions and they expect great success with minimal effort.
They think that they can do what they want without having to face any real consequences and they tend to avoid significant challenges and hard work.
If you want to be competitive in the new marketplace, you’ll have to bring your A+ game, which means adopting a humble attitude and recognizing that there won’t be any success without serious effort.
You’ll need to be willing to make sacrifices, take responsibility for your actions, and see that there are consequences to every one of your choices.
If you were unfortunate enough to have been raised with helicopter parents, you’ll have that much more catching up to do if you don’t want to be a statistic of the current trend of downward social mobility.
The psychologist Angela Duckworth speaks about one quality essential for success in her book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. In a 2016 interview for Canadian Business by Sissi Wang, Ms Duckworth describes how truly successful people bring four qualities to their work, and these four qualities together make up what she calls “grit.”
The qualities that come together to form “grit” are: a deep interest in what they do; the capacity for “deliberate practice,” or hard work focused on a goal; a sense of purpose in that they find their work meaningful, and the resilience that allows a person to bounce back after disappointment or failure.
Sadly, helicopter parents deprive their kids of the opportunity to develop grit and for that reason, impair their ability to succeed in today’s ever more demanding workplace. If you’ve grown up with these types of parents, you’re going to need to work hard to change the trajectory they’ve put you on.
The way things are today, you can’t afford to be a graduate who isn’t aware of how your attitudes, expectations and habits are going to affect your chances of achieving success in the workplace. You can’t be a grad who’s lacking in grit, and you can’t afford to ignore the impact that helicopter parenting will have on your future work life.
It might not be so pleasant to hear a commencement address that offers you these hard truths, but anyone who stands up at the podium and shares this information with you will be doing you an enormous favour.
The fact is that without this knowledge, your classmates with better attitudes, more realistic expectations and more productive habits are going to pass you by on their way to getting the largest slice of the pie.
On the other hand, armed with this knowledge, you’ll be better prepared for the workforce than the vast majority of current grads, and most especially, those who were raised by helicopter parents.
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