What do parental career advice and your grandfather clock have in common? Your kids may not want either of them.     

It’s the day before an estate sale and your son just got his first apartment. What a perfect time to pass on the gems of your treasure trove.  You’ve been waiting for this moment when he needs your stuff and you’re in a great position to “gift” it to him. The only problem is he may not want your stuff, well, maybe some of it but certainly not all of it.

Offering your items is in many ways similar to giving career advice- you’re sure of the quality, it’s absolutely free and he should be scooping it up by the bagful. The problem is he may not see the value you have assigned to your possessions or to your experience.  So, count on your advice landing in one of three piles “keep, toss or maybe.”  You’ve got plenty of wisdom to impart, so let’s look at some ways to effectively do it.    



Your kids are looking forward and could feel you’re looking backward.  It may not even matter that your career was successful financially or that you’ve enjoyed a balanced personal life.  Your experience may represent only the past and seem dated.   Avoid focusing solely on stories about “when I was your age starting out” or your suggestions will fall on deaf ears. Our generation was schooled in the notion of “head down, tail up, do your job and wait.”  If your message is to just be grateful to have a job, be prepared to quickly lose their attention.


Stay relevant (not just for your kid’s sake, either).  Understand what’s important to the next generation. Empathize with their concerns for finding the right fit.  Support them in identifying employers who promote learning and development- they care about career growth and are impatient for it to happen.


Your style and how you made it in the world is not their style.  I remember my son rejecting a one year old dining room set from Pottery Barn because it wasn’t “his style.” As I looked around his sparsely furnished apartment, I wondered exactly what his style was as he didn’t appear to have one.  In retrospect, he was trying to tell me he was establishing his own.  


While I may not have understood it at the time, the process he was going through was building a personal brand.  A good way to help kids transform their image from personal to professional is to guide them in articulating who they are.  Encourage them to start by building an inventory of words they’d use to describe themselves; ask them how friends see them, talk about how they spend their time outside of school to identify their true passions.  Exercises like these lead to greater self-awareness, an absolute must in all aspects of life. You may also consider gifting your kids with a self-assessment tool like “Clifton Strengths” (formerly known as “Strengths Finder”).  Many of these tools are available on-line, are low cost and build profiles to uncover talents your kids may already have to reach their maximum potential.

The sum of that data can then translate to a thoughtful resume and a powerful LinkedIn profile; both key tools for effective job search and networking.  Armed with self-awareness, they‘ll also have a great elevator speech to easily respond to “So, tell me about yourself.”



You may be shocked to discover kids don’t even want their old stuff. After saving my son’s soccer trophies, ribbons and pictures for 30 years, I packed them up before moving day and proudly turned over the memory box to him.  I fell back on my heels when he returned it, gesturing with a tapping motion to his temple while declaring “it’s all in here.”  We Baby Boomers like to own things, the next gen prefers to just have access.  His memories were enough to provide him access to his childhood accomplishments so he had no need for the actual sports memorabilia. 


Stay in tune with your kids and be prepared to up your game with some tech savvy.  I’m not suggesting you attempt to become an overnight YouTube sensation, but understand where your kids live-namely on social media.  That’s also where they’ll find future employers. 

Kids know the technical side of LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter; you know the human side.  Show them how to network, give them access to who you know. They may understand the tips and tricks to avoid elimination by an applicant tracking system but can be totally flat footed when it comes to developing professional connections.  According to a recent Linked In survey, approximately 85% of jobs are found through networking so go ahead and share your social capital. Now that makes for an awesome gift and one that keeps on giving.


You have an emotional attachment to your precious grandfather clock. That attachment pales in comparison to the one you feel for your children. How do you reconcile the overpowering need to hang on while alternately launching them into the world of adulting?  As for your household possessions, call in the estate sale professionals and gracefully part ways.

And, figure your kids may be looking for something brand new.  Better yet, something hand selected which reflects their taste. Maybe time to enlist the help of a mentor? 

Mentors supplement your efforts and are not intended as a replacement for your parental guidance.  Your son or daughter should seek the help of a person from their alumnae club, an influencer at their place of employment, a friend of the family… a college professor.  It should always be someone they admire and trust and a person who they selected.   The mentor can provide objectivity and specific insight in areas where you may be out of your depth. For example, your kids may be pursuing a career in Engineering but you spent your whole life in Marketing.  It’s probably time to turn the reins over to someone who can guide them in that discipline.  


Now that you’ve told your kids everything you know and sent them on to the mentor, what’s left to do?  As for the stuff they never really wanted, move those items from the maybe pile and place them in the estate sale. 

As for the quality of your advice, you’ve combined the wisdom gained over the years and kept your knowledge current while maintaining a steady eye on the job market.  So, don’t be surprised when your kids come back, ready to sift through that new pile you’ve been saving and ask for your help.  At that point, you can start an ongoing dialogue of sharing ideas.  Keep an open mind and be ready to listen to both their challenges as well as their successes.  They’ve lived a little, so have you, and now you’re both ready to learn from each other.  


  • Barbara Schultz

    Career Coach/Founder

    The Career Stager

    Career Coach and founder of The Career Stager. Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) through National Resume Writers' Association. Named Mid-Career Job Search Expert by Job-Hunt, a highly acclaimed career website with 1.5 + million readers. I help job seekers put their best face forward.