Career Advice for your Children

Parents have to be more pragmatic in how they advise their offspring, so students gain the skills needed by business, according to Mark Venning, Chairman of the Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling, as quoted by the Globe and Mail in Toronto today.  Globe Article

Excuse me?

If there is a group that is consistently pragmatic in their advice to the next generation, it’s the parents. If I was looking for a group that needs to be more pragmatic, I would pick the universities, who constantly preach the message of learning for learning’s sake and distance themselves from the job market.

Be A Consultant

Being a parent of an older child is like being a consultant.  As a consultant, I have responsibility, but no authority.  I can’t actually tell anyone to do anything.  The best I can do is point out the consequences of not doing what I advise.  To help my clients, I have to be a good listener and a diplomatic advisor.  It’s not enough to be right.  I have to be practical and understand my client’s situation in order to be effective.

A Scary Future

The future is scary for many young people.  The more aware of the world they are, the scarier it can be.  Many don’t see themselves as having the power to change things.  They are already cynical and they haven’t even started!  My wife tells the story of a student asking, “Why would I want to be on the relentless treadmill of life?”  Why indeed?

Follow Your Passion – Hunh?

Many children are told to follow their dream.  What exactly does that mean when you’re not sure you know what your passion is?  My advice to my children was to pick something and experiment.  More importantly, I gave them permission to back out and try something different.  You learn so much more about yourself by putting energy into something than by sitting on the sidelines, even if you decide it’s not for you.

When I was twenty, I had no idea what my passion was.  From an early age, my mother took me along when she volunteered, but I didn’t know how much a difference the charitable sector would make in my life.   Did you know what you wanted to do with your life at that age?  Did your university courses train you for your current career?  Remember the person you were when you talk to people in that position today.

So, don’t take the advice of the pundits quoted in the paper.  Get to know the challenges your child faces from their point of view and be their consultant as they make the choices that will shape their future.

3 Comments on “Career Advice for your Children

  1. I like the idea of telling young people to FIND their passions. As you and I both learned, the indications arise gradually and result in unanticipated opportunity. College should be part of that discovery process rather than the training ground for a profession. Graduates still need molding when they enter an industry and even then areas of specialization unfold without expectation.

    My favorite conversation is asking people what job they aspired to when they were children, what work they planned to eventually pursue when engaged in college studies, and what they eventually ended up doing in their careers. The variances between the three responses of each person are astounding.

    • So true, Brian. There’s an awesome book, actually written over 30 years ago, called Wishcraft. It was designed to help women who had taken time off to raise children find their way back into a job market that seemed so different from the one they remembered. It’s now a free website, http://wishcraft.com/ and it has some practical tips for figuring out what you want to do with your life.

      Reading between the lines, it also has some wonderful tips for parents, just like you said: “Help young people FIND their passions.” Unfortunately, the reality of the market place is that children have to start making life altering decisions as early as grade 10. For example, if you drop science, you have no chance of becoming a doctor. It’s much too early to make that kind of decision at age 16. But what I told my children was to experiment. Even after they started college, I checked in with them to see whether they still felt they were headed in the right direction. I would rather they commit to something and then realize they have to change course than to sit on sidelines wondering what they were going to do.

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