Failure to Launch – What Happened to My Empty Nest?

In the movie, Failure to Launch, Matthew McConaughey plays the part of a thirtysomething son unwilling to leave the nest. Desperate to be empty-nesters, his parents hire a girl whose profession is luring adult-children to step out on their own.

A thirtysomething adult living at home is not uncommon and the predicament reflects the reality for many in America.  I had no idea this was becoming the norm until I received a phone call at the office the other day and it went something like this:

LG: Hello, You’ve reached the Ginac Group.

Caller: I have a big problem.

LG: What is your problem and how can I help?

Caller:  I have a boomerang in the house!

LG: (Stumped) A boomerang? Hmm, I’m not sure I can help you with that one.

Caller: I think you can. Let me explain.

LG: Okay.

Caller: I sent my son to college so that he could earn a degree, land a great job and start a life independent of his mother and I. He is now 29 years old, unemployed, unmotivated because he’s had a string of bad jobs and living with us. This is the boomergang! Don’t get me wrong, we love our son but he needs help and we can’t do it.

LG: I get it now. You absolutely called the right number.  Although I’ve not heard someone refer to their predicament in that fashion, we have worked with other parents in your situation.

The call went on for a few more minutes discussing his son’s situation. We invited the family in for a consultation to review how market conditions, the parent’s impression of the situation and their son’s perspective on what is going on is helping or hindering the job search process. 

I read a lot of articles on this trend after that phone call. Parents who experienced the grief and sadness of the empty nest as a result of kids going off to college or the workforce, and then discovered the joy and fulfillment that can happen as a result of it because they now have time to focus on their own financial, emotional or social needs are now trying of figure out how to survive the return of their adult children. The process of moving back in with parents after a period of independence is referred to as the Boomerang Effect (i.e. failure to launch).

Unstable market conditions, rising unemployment rates, and declining wages are making it impossible for our children to make their own way in the world.  Moving back home allows them to minimize expenses while returning to school to gain new skills or finding less suitable work just to have a paycheck.  The problem for parents is that their children are not in any rush to leave.  Since many of their friends are also cohabitating with their parents, the stigma of living at home is minimized.

So what are parents to do? Below are eight steps that you can use to regain your freedom.  Be sure to use finesse because you still want to maintain a solid relationship with your children. The eight steps include:

  1. Review the reasons your son or daughter has returned home and be understanding about their situation.  Set expectations and offer suggestions for how they might get back on track.
  2. Communicate with your partner (if you have one) often about how the two of you can help with your adult-child’s situation. Try to avoid the fights you used to have over what’s best for the child.
  3. Create a timeline in your mind about when you’d like to see your child move on again, but be flexible.  Talk it over with your child in small doses as you don’t want to cause any undue stress.
  4. Provide unconditional love and offer fresh ideas for change. Try not to be the overbearing parent who has all of the right answers.  This does nothing to empower your child.
  5. Ask your child for a plan of action with dates that build up to a move out date.  This puts a bit of pressure on the child so that they don’t get too comfortable.
  6. Avoid giving your child a free-ride.  If they are unemployed, assign house tasks.  If they are earning a paycheck, ask for rent and money for food, telephone, etc.
  7. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Use your network (friends, family, and coworkers) to help your son or daughter get their foot in the door. 
  8. Encourage your child to find volunteer work or take on any paid or unpaid internships to get experience and build their own network.

As for the family who came to visit us about their son’s situation. I am happy to report that their son voluntarily signed-up for our career services and he is about to embark on his own journey.  His parents have high hopes for him and I am confident that my team and their son won’t let them down.


April 30, 2010 at 2:44 pm Leave a comment

It is Never Too Late To Realize Your Dreams

Do you often find yourself watching the clock at work, anxiously waiting for it to reach 5:00 p.m.? Have you ever caught yourself day dreaming about the ways your life could be different had you chosen an alternate career path? If so, you are not alone. Countless Americans are unhappy with their current employment situations and are spending 40 plus hours a week in jobs that are not only unfulfilling and unchallenging, but often times extremely stressful. How did you get to this point? Many of us feel forced to put aside our dreams and desires because they are deemed impractical or unattainable. The easier or more “stable” career path is chosen out of fear because it presents itself as the safer, wiser choice.

Unfortunately, the more practical career path is not always the one you dreamed of or the one that is necessarily right for you. Or perhaps you thought you were getting into a career you would love and ten years later realized your heart just is not in it anymore. After devoting all of these years to one particular career path, it is terrifying to think about starting all over doing something completely different with your life. So where do you go from here? Step one is admitting to yourself that you are unhappy in your current job. Denial will only make it harder to realize your dreams. Step two is much more important. Step two involves actually doing something about it. You can choose to live the rest of your life simply “treading water,” or you can wake up and realize that life is short and should not be wasted in a job that simply pays the bills and nothing more. Your job should bring meaning to your life and provide happiness, as well as success. If for as long as you can remember you have dreamt of working with animals or children, then you should research careers in veterinary medicine, teaching, etc. and figure out what steps you would need to take to make that kind of a career change.

If you have no idea what you would like to do but are certain that your accounting job will never provide the fulfillment you desire, there are a few options to explore. There are tests specifically designed to identify your strengths and point out careers that would be well suited for you. Or you can visit a career coach who will work with you one on one to determine the best path for you to choose. Though we may not like to admit it, the majority of our lives are spent at work, which makes it incredibly important to enjoy what we do. There is no reason to feel “stuck” in your current position or feel as though you must spend the rest of your life in the same, unsatisfying career. Whether you have been in the workforce for two years or twenty years, it is never too late to follow your dreams and create a meaningful career.

April 29, 2010 at 1:54 pm Leave a comment

Good Article on Words to Avoid in your Resume

Liz Ryan has written an interesting article about words to avoid in your resume. An excerpt:

“Kill this: Results-oriented professional

Replace with your own version of this: I love to solve thorny supply-chain problems

Kill this: Excellent team player

Replace with your own version of this: At Acme Dynamite, I partnered with Engineering to cut our product cost in half”

Her point is well-taken. Your resume should contain concrete, specific examples of your achievements, and not be full of random “resume-speak” that anyone could write. The more specific your accomplishments, the more enticing your resume will be to employers, and they will respond!

April 20, 2010 at 7:40 pm Leave a comment

Not Qualified for the Job? Then don’t submit your resume!

We frequently hear complaints from employers that they have far more resumes to review than positions to fill-typically at least 500 resumes submitted per open position!  Imagine the frustration of the recruiter when over half of the submitted resumes do not meet even the mininum qualifications. For example, if they ask for 10 years of management experience, and you do not have even 1 year of management experience, then you should not apply for the job.

While the “cast a wide net” strategy may seem like a good idea, we have found that for most it is not a fruitful strategy. A targeted job search strategy is one in which you decide what occupations are the best fit for your experience, skills, and interest, and then you pursue those types of positions. Included in your job search strategy should be the seleciton of industries and companies that are a match for the type of culture you wish to work in and as well as for your personal values. By focusing on the companies that you want to work at, rather than just randomly applying at whatever becomes available, your put yourself in control of your job search. In addition, your time will be better spent looking for networking opportunities into the companies you want to work at instead of taking the time to apply to any and every job on the job boards!

April 13, 2010 at 5:10 pm Leave a comment

Got a Job, but still not Happy..

Recent survey findings indicate workers are unhappier than ever at work. Some of the top reasons include:

-People perceive their jobs are uninteresting.

-Pay has not kept up with inflation.

-Soaring healthcare costs.

-Having to do more work with less people.

What are your reasons for being unhappy at work?

April 8, 2010 at 4:28 pm Leave a comment

It’s a tough market out there..

The Austin Business Journal reported that the “first quarter of 2009 really marked the peak of downsizing for this recession. Unfortunately, many people are still jobless and many businesses are still shuttered. This combination is having a significant negative impact on state and local tax revenues and, in turn, leading to continued downsizing in this sector.”

There are many, many job seekers out there who are extremely qualified and looking at the same opportunities you are. It is tough to stay motivated when you are getting rejection after rejection or more likely, not hearing anything at all! It’s taking people an average of 3 interviews to get a job, and 6 months of looking to find a job. Hang in there, stay focused, and stay positive!

April 6, 2010 at 7:44 pm Leave a comment

Mom is Going Back to Work!

Let’s face it, you HAVE been working since you have been staying home with your kids, just not getting paid for it, right?? Too bad most employers don’t consider the amount of organization, multi-tasking, and disciplining you have done over that time as “real” work experience. Getting back to being employed and paid can be tough for stay-at-home moms. Some tips for getting in the door include:

-Take some time to think about what you really want to do. You don’t have to go back into the same job that you were doing before, and chances are your priorities have changed. For instance, you might have been a traveling salesperson before but that type of schedule may not work for you now that you have children. Check out some books with career inventories or visit with a career coach to focus your job search.

-Do volunteer work. This is an opportunity to get you out of the house and help you to sharpen up your business skills. You may also make some valuable connections volunteering that will help you in your job search.

-Identify the industries you want to work in and make a list of companies in your area that you would want to work at. Utilize your network through friends, family, and others to make personal connections with people at these companies.

-Take some relevant professional training courses. Many moms feel out of touch with what the latest technologies are-don’t let these doubts hurt your confidence-get up to speed!

-Network, network, network!  Your ability to make connections is what is going to get you in the door, and no one does it better than stay at home moms!

March 30, 2010 at 7:35 pm Leave a comment

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