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How to Help Your Young Adult Child With the Job-Hunting Process

By Kate Kelly

At a Glance

  • Young adults with learning and thinking differences may need help managing the process for finding a job.

  • It’s important that your child customizes his resume for each job he applies for.

  • Personal connections can help your child find out about jobs. But he may need help reaching out.

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Searching for a great “real” job can be hard for anyone. But young adults with learning and thinking differences may face extra challenges.

Your child may have trouble coming up with a search plan, or keeping track of when to follow up. Discussing his skills and abilities on a written application may be hard for him.

With a little help, however, your child can overcome these difficulties. As he goes through the following steps to find a job, you can lend him a hand.

Finding Out What Jobs Are Out There

Online job listings are an important source for leads, so be sure your child knows where and how to find them. But many jobs aren’t advertised online. One of the best ways for your child (or anyone) to find a job is to ask his personal network.

Suggest that he make a list of everyone he knows who’s connected to the field he’s interested in. It should include your friends and colleagues, too.

Even if there’s no job available, an informational interview can be a good way to find out more about a company. And it helps your child get an inside track on jobs that may open up in the future.

If your child is entering the workforce straight from high school, he may have access to a job coach or counselor. This person may have contacts to help him in his search.

If he has graduated from college, he can reach out to his school’s career center. He can still access alumni networks and job leads even if he’s no longer on campus.

Reaching out to people may be especially hard if your child has social skills issues or difficulty making conversation. Knowing exactly how to go about it can help him feel more confident.

Crafting a Targeted Resume and Cover Letter

Figuring out how to present yourself on paper can feel overwhelming. And it can it be particularly hard for young adults who have trouble organizing their thoughts or initiating tasks.

When your child is creating his first resume, it can help to have a job in mind. Pick a promising job ad or description and make a list of all the requirements it describes. These may include skills, experience or personal traits.

Brainstorm together to see which qualities from the list your child can show he has. He can draw on other jobs, volunteer work, related courses and extracurricular activities.

These notes should serve as a good starting place for drafting a resume and cover letter. The basics of these may not change from job to job. But your child should customize both the resume and the cover letter for each job he applies for.

For each application, make sure your child uses key words from the job’s requirements on his resume. The cover letter should briefly explain why he’s interested in that particular job. And it should include reasons he’s well suited for it.

Make sure someone proofreads your child’s resume and cover letter before he sends them out.

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Getting References Lined Up

Your young adult should think about whom he’ll ask to be his references. He’ll probably need at least two adults who can speak positively about his abilities and work ethic.

Help your child brainstorm people to ask. Former employers are ideal. Teachers are also an option. (It’s best if the course they teach relates to the job.) Family friends are the last option.

It can be handy to have references in writing. That way potential employers don’t have to track anyone down. But some will want to ask specific questions. So advise your child to have current phone numbers and email addresses ready­­, too.

Once your child has identified the people he’d like to provide references, he’ll need to contact them. He may not know what to say, however. You can help him come up with scripts for both email and phone contact.

Making a Personal Connection

In some industries, like retail and restaurants, it’s fine simply to show up and ask to speak to the hiring manager. If your child is comfortable going this route, be sure he takes a copy of his resume.

You may also want to remind him to dress appropriately—especially if he has trouble reading social situations. And if flexible thinking is an issue, you may want to walk through what he should do if he gets there and the manager can’t speak to him.

If the manager gives your child an application, let him know he can probably bring it home to fill out. (Make a copy so if the first draft isn’t perfect, you have another one.)

Practicing Being Interviewed

Knowing what to expect can help your child do better at an interview, especially if he gets nervous in social situations. You might want to do an Internet search for popular interview questions. If possible, find a friend to conduct a mock interview. Ideally, this should be someone your child doesn’t know well.

Should your child disclose his learning and thinking difference during the interview? He’s not obligated to do so. If he gets an offer, he can always bring it up with HR later.

But your child may want to bring up his issue at the interview. If so, he needs to discuss the strategies he uses to manage it. And he should give an example of how he’s been successful using these techniques.

Following Up Appropriately

If your child has issues with organization, you may want to remind him to send a thank-you note or email after the interview. In a week or so he can follow up with another email to check in and emphasize his interest.

As your child’s search progresses, suggest he keep refreshing his list of contacts, meeting with people and pursuing more than one job at a time. The more he gets his name out there, the greater his chance of landing employment.

Finding the right job can take time. Encourage your child to stick with it. And consider directing him to resources like the NCLD e-book, Getting a Job 101.

Key Takeaways

  • Brainstorm ideas and jot down notes to help your child get started writing his resume.

  • Practicing common interview questions builds confidence.

  • Your child doesn’t have to bring up his learning and thinking differences before he’s hired.

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