Help Your Kid This Summer

Parents are often warned against helicopter help, but kids in summer jobs can use your wisdom.

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Much has been written about helicopter parents being too involved. The stories—attending college classes with their kids, calling bosses at their first job—are embarrassing. Parents need to let go and let the little darlings blossom or fail.

Except for this: Most kids get summer jobs—"internships" if they're of college age—with no idea what they are doing. Still, any job is good for these kids. They learn basic skills, like getting up on time and showing up with brushed teeth. Personally, hard work made me what I am today. I spent summers helping my dad farm and I wanted NO part of it as an adult. The point is, we all learn from these first jobs.

Your last job as a parent is get them ready for the real world, the world of work. You know two things they don't: Their weaknesses and what kind of job would be "good for them."

My son was in business school and his official internships were on the trading floors of investment banks. But his best summer job was when he was a short-order cook. He needed this dose of reality, humility even. I could have helped him more, but he didn't do badly.

Two guiding principles:

  • Make sure they actually work and don't just observe—having an "output" gives them a connection to reality.
    • If you can, find them a mentor (a family friend, perhaps) at the job—someone who can explain to them how their role fits in.
    • G.L. Hoffman is a serial entrepreneur and venture investor/operator/incubator/mentor. Two of his companies have traveled the entire success path from the garage to IPO. Currently, he is chairman of JobDig and his blog can be found at WhatWouldDadSay.com or at JobDig.com.