03/14/2019 Steph Anderson

Desperate parents are sabotaging their kids’ careers

Desperate Housewives has nothing on 50 desperate parents, who rocked the news this week in an extensive college admissions scandal. This story has the elements of a Hollywood blockbuster — lies, cheating, bribery, famous actresses, rich and powerful people caught up in, and brought down by, their own hubris, a shady character weaving a web of deceit for his own gain — but it’s all too real. And, if you’re a job seeker or a hiring manager, recruiter or HR pro, the fallout could be coming to an office near you.

In case you missed it, actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, were among 50 people arrested this week on federal charges involving cheating on standardized college entrance exams and bribing college athletic coaches to recruit kids who had no athletic experience. It boils down to this: Wealthy parents were allegedly paying bribes, to the tune of millions of dollars, to get their kids into elite schools. All of that money was funneled through a fake charity, which got audited. When you mess with the IRS, as Felicity Huffman found out, not even an Academy Award nomination will save you from prosecution.

Federal charges aside, it’s a glaring case of helicopter parenting to the extreme. There’s so much wrong with it, it’s hard to know where to start. Deserving students who legitimately worked hard were denied admission because others greased palms to take their spots. (Can you smell the lawsuits?) Just as bad, maybe worse, is the message parents are sending by cheating and bribing to get their kids admitted into elite schools, which is going to set those kids up for failure long after their college years are over.

One of the things these parents are taking away from their kids is the opportunity to learn from experience. Is it the end of the world if a child tries and fails? What about the student who doesn’t bother studying, gets a low score on the SAT and suffers the consequences? Wouldn’t both of those circumstances lead to learning, growing and maturing? The kids whose parents got them falsely recruited for sports they don’t even play are setting an even more dangerous precedent. They could be teaching their children it’s OK to blatantly lie, deceive and cheat to get around rules they don’t think apply to them, all for their own gain. Enron, anyone?

It’s a bigger problem than just these 50 people, and it goes beyond college. Well beyond. That kind of extreme helicopter parenting is already interfering in millennials’ job searches and even workplaces. A survey by OfficeTeam a couple of years back highlighted examples of parental behavior so outrageous we’d laugh about it, if it were on TV. But the hiring managers who reported the behavior to OfficeTeam weren’t laughing. It’s parents asking to sit in on job interviews, negotiating salary and other perks, calling managers, even retaliating when their kids don’t get job offers.

All of this fuss. And for what? Traditional four-year degrees are becoming less important on resumes these days. Hiring managers and recruiters are looking for solid skills and experience instead. And, in an ironic twist worthy of Hollywood, that’s exactly what these parents are robbing from their kids.

Featured image: David McNew/AFP/Getty Images

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