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When Your Adult Child Wants a Better Job

Help them figure out their next move before jumping ship

Millennials Want Better Jobs


Don't just let your adult kid dream about about better job; help them find it.

While a student at Fordham University's business school, Margot Sikorski completed six internships and discovered a passion for event planning. She launched a job search months before her 2014 graduation and found that most event planning positions required extensive experience. So to pay her rent, she took a job as a media projects coordinator.

Yet Sikorski never gave up her dream. About eight months into her new job, she started looking again. The search took another six months before she landed a position planning corporate events and conferences. Even though the salary was $5,000 less, she didn't think twice. "I knew immediately this was the right company in terms of their business, culture and my personality," says the 24-year-old Manhattan resident. "And the pay cut was manageable without changing my lifestyle."

Like Sikorski, many millennials would accept a pay cut — up to $7,500 — for a new job that was more "purposeful" or offered a better work-life balance, according to a Fidelity survey. Sometimes a pay cut is a smart move for young adults who want a career change, to work fewer hours, to travel less or to get a foot in with a blue chip company.

Paul Angone, 33, took a huge financial risk three years ago, leaving a job as a university marketing specialist to start his own consulting company. The author of two books on millennials and careers, Angone, who lives in Los Angeles, now travels the country as an organizational consultant helping companies and millennials work better together. Striking out on his own had challenges, especially as the father of two small children. "I did take a huge pay cut. But my wife supported me, and the risk paid off," he says.

Sometimes our adult children want to jump ship without fully considering the implications. We asked Angone for advice for parents who might be inclined to panic when an employed adult child announces he or she is taking a substantial pay cut or (worse) quitting before finding a better job. His suggestions are:

  • Get to the core issues. Is their frustration with working a 70-hour week? Or sitting behind a desk all day? Or is it that they don't believe in the company's products or services? Or simply hate what they do all day?
  • Suggest staying. Ask them to think about aspects of the current job that they enjoy. Can those be expanded, or is there another opportunity within the company? "Companies are becoming a lot more fluid because they know the high cost of turnover. The request has to be made in the right way, though. No ultimatums."
  • Advise perfecting new skills before leaping. What are the necessary skills in a new line of work? Recommend that your child start learning them. While working at a university, Angone took advantage of the tuition remission benefit. He earned a master's degree in organization leadership and learned web design.
  • Recommend working the side hustle. For young adults determined to start their own businesses, Angone suggests following his model: He worked on his first book and business plan from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. and during lunch hours. "My dream was feeding me while I was working at my job, and my job was feeding me while I worked at my dream."
  • Encourage taking chances. Angone believes the 20s are a time to take risks. "The most dangerous job in your 20s is a comfortable one, being on cruise control and not being challenged. Failing to grow in a job can have a negative effect on their careers. Encourage them to take risks, and let them know you support them on their journey.

"Many young people are looking for a career with purpose and significance," Angone says. "Parents can help them figure out the next move."

Mary W. Quigley, a journalist and author, has written two books about motherhood and work. A New York University journalism professor, she is the mother of three adult children and blogs at