Boomerang Kids, Jacks of All Trades, and the Nuances of Networking

Thanks for the many emails and calls that ask questions and want answers. Here are three that are representative of your more recent concerns.

“I’m worried about my son. He’s a fine young man, a college graduate, nice looking, smart, and just a bit reserved. He’s not had any luck getting interviews and he’s getting down on himself. His dad and I encourage him, and have volunteered to make calls for him, but he doesn’t seem interested in accepting our help. We are pleased that he is living at home with us but want to do whatever we can to encourage him to get out and get a job. What do you suggest?”

Sounds like you have a unemployed, fine young man living in your house and you’re a tad worried that he might stay there for a while. If that’s the case, you’re in good company. Many of the calls and emails I receive are from well- intended parents with well-intended children, who are each making matters worse for the other by the sending indirect and sometimes unintended messages of go, stay, try, and don’t try.

Grown up children want to be on their own as much as their parents want them to be. Young (and sometimes not so young) adults are standing in lines for jobs that are in short supply.  These applicants face an even tougher challenge if they haven’t clarified what they want to do; or if they’ve identified a niche, figured out how to make money doing it.

If, as parents, you’ve been steady in your contribution of emotional and financial support, you probably feel helpless as you watch your offspring struggle with finding themselves and their place in the world. You want to rescue and know you can’t. If time’s marching on and your children aren’t, you might need to turn to “tough love”.

If you provide your offspring room, board, and car insurance, bill for it and ask for payment in return. That means your grown child will have to find work quickly. Will it be the right work? The career to which their education and intellect suggest they are entitled? Nope. But it gets them across the abyss of fear into the real world of personal accountability. It focuses them on taking the necessary steps that move them from co-dependence to interdependence.

Bottom line, replace tangible rewards with intangible benefits of love, caring, and a sincere belief in your child’s ability to figure things out if given the time, space, and responsibility to do just that.


“I hate to admit it, but I’m a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none. How can I find and keep a job if there isn’t one that I want that will last long enough for me to keep?”

Jack, start by bragging on your abilities rather than apologizing for them.  You have the talent to do a variety of things, in a variety of places, for a variety of people. You’re flexible, mobile, and I bet you’re pretty adaptable. You’re the go-to-guy when something needs fixing, and you probably do it without the fanfare of a brass band. So before you drum yourself out of the corps, practice describing what you do, and how you can benefit those who need you to get it done.

“My networking is going nowhere. I get into great conversations with interesting people, then we part company and I’m no better for having contacted them. What am I doing wrong?”

You aren’t doing anything wrong, you just aren’t doing enough of what’s right.  Before you start making calls and setting up meetings, figure out what you want to accomplish. Everyone’s time is precious. When you find networking contacts willing to give you time, be explicit about what you need and how they can help.

If you want feedback on your resume, ask for it. If you’re interviewing for a job and you’d like a reference, ask for it. Would you like an introduction to a key member of their leadership team? Ask. Do you want to learn more about how to break into their field, one in which you have strong interest? Ask. If you don’t ask, you won’t receive.

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Joyce Richman ( has been specializing in executive and career coaching since she started her own practice in 1982. She works in a variety of environments including: higher education, manufacturing, sales, marketing, media, technology, pharmaceuticals, medicine, banking and finance, service, IT, and non-profit sectors. A member of the adjunct faculty at the Center for Creative Leadership, Joyce is certified to administer a number of feedback and psychological instruments. Joyce has appeared regularly on WFMY-TV and is the career columnist for The Greensboro News & Record. She is the author of Roads, Routes and Ruts: A Guidebook to Career Success and co-author of Getting Your Kid Out of the House and Into a Job. A popular speaker, Richman conducts seminars and workshops throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. Her coaching profile can be found at