Part 1 — Invest in preparation
When I was in my teens I asked my parents why we had so many encyclopedias. At that time, it wasn’t so strange to have a set of the “general knowledge” ones but we had a few other sets — one of them being advanced maths, which I believe had about 8–10 huge books in a set. The answer? They didn’t know what their kids (there’s three of us) would want to do in life, so they covered as many options as they could think of. It was their way of letting us have access to all the information we could need. This way of thinking stuck with me.
Today, it is perfectly normal to change jobs, careers, general direction in life. Research shows that young people today are likely to have 17 jobs over 5 different careers as they leave school. What does this mean for today’s parents? Collating the latest books and encyclopedias may be unnecessary in a world where anything you ever wanted to know is available to you through Google and some well chosen keywords. But nevertheless preparation is key.
As a parent, you have the biggest influence on your child’s education and career decisions. School may play a role, teachers will have their part in it too. But preparation for the future starts at home.
I believe a good start is a conversation. Asking kids what they want to do when they grow up is one of those questions everyone seems to go for. Usually their answer is met with a “that’s nice”. But what would happen if more of those conversations continued with “what do you think X does?” or “why do you think you’d like to do X?”. One of the best things we can do as parents is to encourage our kids to explore further, to look at all options and possibilities. Help them research people in those careers, talk to them about your past jobs, show them where you work. Build up a sense of excitement and optimism about their future, regardless of where they’re currently at.
Chances are, they will change what the X is more times than you’ll be able to count. I was one of those kids with a different career choice every week. But the more they know about their possibilities, the more confident they will feel about their choices. They will develop a flexibility to embrace a fast changing world and will be more likely to make a more satisfying future for themselves.