Be a Mentor to Your Grandchild

An expert discusses how you can help grandkids get into college and find jobs

By Kim Styler

Chances are the word "college" conjures up fond memories of late-night study sessions with friends, harboring big-time crushes, and meeting new people who expanded your mind in unimaginable ways.

It’s a whole different story for your grandchildren, who are either applying to college or entering the workforce. College today can be a period of considerable stress and anxiety. With a bleak job market and total student loans outstanding exceeding $1 trillion (according to USA Today), there’s no room for error. Gone are the days of guiltlessly spending an extra semester in school because you accidentally missed classes required for your major.

As founder of, which educates career seekers about different types of jobs, I regularly meet with guidance counselors and college career center advisors. Across the board, such experts emphasize one thing: The importance of finding a mentor to build a fulfilling career. Young people who use friends and family as advisors at an early age build a foundation for cultivating mentor relationships throughout their lives.

I can think of no better person to play this crucial role than a grandparent. After all, your experience provides a treasure trove of career insight to your grandchildren. Better yet, acting as a career advisor will enhance your relationship with them. When your grandchildren were young, you undoubtedly showered them with gifts, hugs and attention, playing imaginative games that lasted hours. Now that they’re older, you can present yourself as more than a toy provider and playmate. By participating in their career search, your grandkids will see you as a complete person with a wealth of knowledge and experience.

How you present your professional advice can make all of the difference. No one wants to come across as overly intrusive. With that in mind, here are some useful ways to play that important mentor role in your grandchild’s life.

1. Offer yourself as an informational interview subject. By setting up a formal informational interview with you, your grandchildren can begin to identify careers that interest them, and of equal importance, those that do not. While this type of interview helps college grads prepare for the job market, it can also be useful for younger students. College applicants can glean insight to identify the right schools for their goals. For those already attending college, it will help to choose a major and/or apply for a summer internship.

2. Treat them like professionals. Don’t cut your grandchildren any slack. Demand the same standards you would of any other professional contact. Before the interview, have them

  • Research your industry and current – or previous – job. One great resource is The Occupational Outlook Handbook, a government resource available online.
  • Prepare questions they would like answered.

After the interview, I would recommend that you

  • Insist upon a thank you note after the meeting (and not a text message)! Today, hiring managers expect to hear from a job candidate by email within a day or two of the interview. However, they are further impressed when job candidates follow up that email with a handwritten note because so few people bother nowadays.
  • Invite them to shadow you for a day at work (if you are still working) to see what it’s like to be in your shoes. Also, their future interviews will be more effective because they can reference real‐life experience.

3. Help them network. Put your vast network of contacts to work by introducing your grandchildren to roughly three people. This will give them an opportunity to practice their networking skills, try out their newly‐developed interviewing skills, and build their confidence. Since many people’s careers take unexpected turns, introduce your grandchildren to someone who works in a field different from their college major. For example, perhaps you know someone who studied drama and now runs an arts organization.

Also, mix up the personalities. Choose one person who will go easy on them and another who is a bit abrupt. The contrast serves as a quick lesson in being prepared for a meeting and respectful of people’s time. Remind your grandchildren to always ask their interview subject to introduce them to someone else in the field –a vital strategy for all networkers.

4. Attend college tours. Take your grandchild to some college tours, particularly if you attended the university yourself. Your children will be appreciative. After all, college tours can be a drain on parents’ time, finances and emotions. This will provide a unique experience to enjoy with your grandchild and further cement your bond.

5. Take them shopping. You love to spoil your grandchildren, right? Here’s a great excuse. For better or worse, people are judged on their appearance. First impressions do count. Help them get ready for interviews and project a responsible image. They need to have appropriate clothes, but also clothes they like. This will boost their self–confidence and let their personalities and intelligence stand out.

6. Start or contribute to a 529 savings plan. If you are in the financial position to do so there is no better gift than one that helps your loved one(s) with a debt free start to their adult lives. Whether they know it or not, that’s a more precious gift than any toy you could ever buy them.

When it comes to mentoring, Winston Churchill said it best, "We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give." What Churchill didn’t say is that this philosophy goes double for your grandchildren.

Kim Styler is the Founder and President of, a website for career seekers - including high school seniors, college students/grads, young professionals and career changers - that features video "informational interviews" of professionals from a variety of industries explaining their jobs, career paths, how to break in, and more. To share your career on, upload your video here.


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