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Thank you for your answer. So, I have tried this and it doesn't work for me. This is a licensed product (Paid for) so not sure why this is the case. I will need to investigate further.
The epics do not appear in the list and the message I get is that "Portfolio for Jira must be licensed for the parent link to be available".
You'll want to assign the epic link not the parent link. parent link is a portfolio only field (as you discovered) for extending epics and other issue types with additional parent hierarchies.
I think that epic link dropdown is auto complete so you'll want to start typing in the epic name and it'll start showing you options.
This still doesn't work in 2023. Nothing appears in the Epic drop down. If you type an Epic's key that you know exists it refreshed the page when you hit submit, inserts the Summary of the Epic but still shows a warning that you must choose an epic. There is no way to do this automatically using bulk change option.