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WORKING STRATEGIES, A COLUMN BY AMY LINDGREN

Helping Mom and Dad find a job

Friday, February 8, 2013 - 12:01 am

Do you need more evidence that our world of work is becoming completely topsy-turvy? Here's mine: I have now begun fielding calls from grown children seeking career help for their unemployed parents.

As Americans continue the trend of working into their 70s, it may become common for adult children to help parents navigate the path back to employment.

Admittedly, if you are the adult child in question, you might find the situation a bit tricky. Depending on family dynamics, offering help could feel intrusive. And sometimes your ideas won't work as well if you and your parents live in different states. Even so, there's likely to be something you can offer an unemployed parent in terms of a helping hand. Following are some tips to get you started.

1. Don't assume the answer is digital. If your parents need to strengthen computer skills or build their comfort with online processes, that's an important issue on its own. But saying that the jobs are only online or implying one needs to be a digital wizard to be eligible for work is not only incorrect, but extremely de-motivating.

2. Pinpoint actual computer issues they may be having. If your parents do lack computer skills, or have not been exposed to networking tools such as LinkedIn and Twitter, then helping them accelerate their learning would be a service.

3. Ensure they have an updated resume. Depending on your skills in this area, you might help create this document.

4. Ensure they have a job search or career plan. Regardless of one's age or work history, the most critical step for moving forward is to have a plan for the next work. Without this job target, seekers of any age are relegated to a wait-and-see process of replying to ads.

5. Be a networking contact. Even if you work in different fields, forwarding your parent's resume to friends or colleagues, or bringing your parent to your own networking events will help in several ways.

6. Help update their look. If you don't have the skill to evaluate your mother's wardrobe, or the nerve to confront your father about his scraggly sideburns, find someone who does.

7. Keep your eyes open for part-time jobs, potential consulting opportunities and other stop-gaps that will help your unemployed parent both financially and psychologically.

8. Email or call regularly to check on the search. The trick is to convey your support without sounding like a nag. You should also watch for signs of depression or emotional distress so that you can increase your level of support or find others to help when necessary.

9. Guard your parents' finances as you would your own. Request a temporary no-gift policy, treat them to dinner sometimes instead of assuming the opposite, and otherwise ease the emotional burden they may be feeling over not buying extras for their kids or grandkids.

10. Respect their decisions. Your parent may decide to change careers, sell the family home, seek more training, retire early, or do something else you would not have envisioned. If you have a view to offer, do so and then clam up. And as much as possible, remember that age really is just a number. Don't let ageism define your response to your parents' plans, and try to help them avoid the same pitfall if you can.

Amy Lindgren owns Prototype Career Service, a career consulting firm in St. Paul. She can be reached at alindgren@prototypecareerservice.com or at 626 Armstrong Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55102.