I'll Help Your Kids, You Help Mine...

Toddi Gutner

All right, I admit it. Even though my sons are only 7 1/2 and nearly 9, I’ve already thought a little about how I might use my professional networks to help them when they’re ready for the job market--a topic that Sue Shellenbarger so artfully covered in today’s Wall Street Journal, “Helicopter Parents go to Work: Moms and Dads are now Hovering at the Office.”

In her article she writes: “In many ways, parents are continuing the intense oversight this generation has been known all along: challenging poor grades; negotiating with coaches and helping kids register for college.”

Many friends with college-age kids have asked me to step up to plate on behalf of their children by writing a college or character recommendation, inquiring about internships at the magazine or making a call to former colleagues who now work elsewhere. I’m happy to do it. I live by the motto, what goes around comes around. But, I’ve also begun to think that those college-age kids I help today might in a position to help my child in 12-15 years.

When I think back on my college and career path, I had virtually no contacts or connections. I came from the Midwest, went to college in the Midwest and then landed in Washington, D.C. without many friends or family. At one of my first interviews for a position as an economic analyst at a private consulting firm, I was told the job had been filled by the person who had interviewed before me. I requested to see the principal anyway—and after we chatted for 30 minutes, he hired me too. I can't tell you how good it felt to do it on my own.

But the world has changed a lot in 25 years since I entered the work force, and will certainly change much more by the time my boys gear up for their first job. Maybe it is a lot harder to land that first job than it was years ago. I know the best thing I can do now is to be a good role model and raise them to be independently minded and motivated to follow their dreams. But truth be told, I’ll still probably keep close tabs on my networks.

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