With college seniors home for holiday break, how can parents best talk to them about their plans for securing a job after graduation?

Avis Hinkson, dean of Barnard College in Manhattan, recommends a “guide not chide” approach. “Engage in a conversation as opposed to dropping expectations on the student,” Hinkson says. “I’m inviting parents to step into the role of coach instead of dictator.” Remember that the student is anxious, too.

Hinkson offers the following prompts to encourage an open, productive conversation:

-What are your thoughts about life after college?

-What help do you need from us?

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-How can parents’ list of family, friends and contacts be of support? Could an informational interview with “person x” be helpful to your thought process?

-Suggest some areas where you think the student could excel in the workplace. Use sentences such as “I really see your strengths as . . . ” or “You really seem to enjoy . . . ” Say these things instead of saying, “What you’re talking about doing makes no sense,” Hinkson says. “That’s just an opportunity for a door to slam.”

-The college provides a lot of resources, so make sure the student is taking advantage of them, she says. But instead of just saying, “Have you been to the career center?” Say, “On our campus visits, the school really touted their career center. How has the career center helped you with job opportunities? How has the career center helped you with interviewing skills?” Career centers can also help write resumes.

-Ask them if they’ve heard any interesting alumni speak at the school who might talk to them about how they arrived at their career goals.

-Help them consider bridge jobs. “Not everyone is going to walk right into the field they desire,” Hinkson says.