There are many things that classify my generation, Generation Y or Millennials. We were weaned on computers and texting and are pretty much attached to our iPhones and iPods. We’ve pushed the social media envelope and got the rest of the generations started on sites like Facebook. We’re trying to make an impact on the world in our personal and professional lives – leaving a legacy by making the world a better place is important to us, no matter how we do it.
But one of my favorite thing about Gen Y is the term used to describe our moms and dads: helicopter parents. They’re named appropriately for the way they hover, playing a seemiginly omnipresent role in our lives, from keeping a close watch on our progress in middle and high school to making the dreaded college decision to helping us figure out what job to choose upon graduation and beyond! A lot of thought has been given to why so many parents have adopted this style and many agree that it’s because these parents are Baby Boomers and a product of a generation that fostered aggressive competition – there were just so many of that they had to be the best in order to succeed. Not surprisingly, the ones that did succeed passed this mentality to their children so that when the time comes around to apply to colleges, these parents are convinced that a 4.5 GPA (on a 4.0 scale), an All-American cross country record and First Chair on the violin and viola won’t be enough to get into a good school because their child didn’t volunteer at the soup kitchen on the weekends.
Now, in true Gen Y fashion, my mother was the same way. Disappointed that I got an A- and not an A (but it was the best grade in the class!), pushing me to stay on the clarinet when I loathed it and so desperately wanted to give it up (but I HATE practicing!), encouraging me to apply to the Honors program at what turned out to be my alma matter when it required writing one extra essay (but I want to play on my computer!)…you get the idea. And in fact, most of my friends have parents that are pretty similar.
But there is certainly a fine line between hovering and being way too involved for the child’s own good. Cue my story.
A candidate today sent me an e-mail telling me he was about to enter his final year of school and would be looking for a job next year. He merely wanted to introduce himself, start a conversation and find out when to submit his materials. Like most HR professionals, I’m so innundated with resumes that I typically send out something like a form letter that has a slight personal touch to it if I can (those form letters not only bother me to send but, having received many of them during my application days, they’re incredibly painful to get back). But this guy, well, he put in the time and he sent something that was well-written and seemed personalized to me and my organization. And since he exerted that much effort, I sent him a much more personalized response to tell him I appreciated what he sent me, when and how he could apply and finally that I would be happy to help him and keep in touch.
About an hour later, I get a response to the e-mail, but not from him. Instead, it’s from a woman who responded to my message by saying “Awesome. Be sure to send him a thank you note and tell him that you’ll be in touch…”. I did a double take and reread the e-mail. Not only had the candidate forwarded my response to his mother, but she inadvertently responded directly to me!
This is when hovering takes on a whole new form. Obviously the intent was not to send me a message, I do acknowledge that. Nevertheless, when you’re accidentally responding to the HR office or a recruiter instead of your son, it might be time to ask yourself whether being a helicopter is helping or hurting. Presuambly in the long run, it’s doing some good – just be sure to keep it in check or something like this might happen.
Oh yeah, about 2 hours after that, I got an Outlook message telling me that “The sender would like to recall this message…”. Too late.