There’s been plenty of anecdotal evidence of over-anxious parents filling out job applications for their grown offspring or stalking their hiring managers on social media. Actual data on the prevalence of this kind of helicopter parenting has been hard to find.
But in the wake of the college admissions scandal, in which dozens of wealthy parents are accused of committing bribery and fraud to get their children into elite colleges, the New York Times commissioned a survey that sheds some light on how far parents are willing to go to advance their grown kids’ career prospects.
In a nationally representative survey of 1,500 US parents of adult children aged 18 to 28, 14% said they had pulled strings in their own professional network to secure a job for their child. The same percentage claimed to have “told them which career to pursue.”
Some 11% of respondents said they would contact a grown child’s employer if their offspring was having a problem at work (though it is hard to imagine any work problem that would not become exponentially worse as a result of an employee’s parent getting involved). And 16% of respondents said they had written at least part of a job or internship application for their adult child.
This is nuts. To present another person’s work as your own is fraud, be it on a job application or college entrance exam. At the very least, applying for a job on an adult child’s behalf falsely represents the applicant as a person with the organization and initiative to do it themselves—and deprives them of the opportunity to learn the skill for themselves.
“We’ve forgotten this very important fact: you have to remember that one day you will be dead and gone,” Julie Lythcott-Haims, a former Stanford University dean and the author of How to Raise an Adult, told Quartz at Work last year. “When we over-help and become the person who does the heavy lifting and thinking in our kids’ lives, they will be totally lost and abandoned when we no longer can.”
Remember this next time you’re even remotely tempted to apply for a job on your grown child’s behalf. Unless you also plan to write all future memos, client briefs, and other work throughout your child’s career, it’s a scam with a limited life span.