A Career Crisis for Our Kids

Vandy-Grad-2013Note: This post is mostly about children who plan to go to college…college is NOT the answer for all children, and we parents must be open to the different paths our children choose, even if they are not the ones that align with our dreams for them.

Preparation.  What do you think that means?

In business, it can mean gathering information and skills for a presentation or project, or to move that next step up the corporate ladder. There are no clear instruction manuals on the requirements.  As any junior executive will tell you, it is like walking along a precipice in the dark with an abyss on each side, and no sign to point, “This Way.”

Education can be that way, as well, and we parents can make dangerous assumptions.

“After all, if our kids go to school, pay attention when they are in class, study and get good grades, they should have a great shot at a good future, right?”

Our present is proving that at least partly wrong.  A basic college education is often not enough in these challenging economic times.  Some of our kids who did all that was expected of them, graduated from college and presented themselves to the job market with their newly minted BA and BS degrees, have been handed minimum wage job opportunities they could have attained with a high school diploma.

What happened?

There are a lot of theories out there and a lot of complaints, but today’s graduates are faced with a couple of interesting options if they will look at them that way.

  • They can pursue an advanced degree that will increase their marketability in their chosen field (assuming they have a chosen field – amazing how many really don’t).
  • If they don’t have a concrete field choice in mind, this may be the time to take an entry-level job in something that will give them some experience and exposure to something.  Some kind of job experience that, even if it does not make them say, “Wow, that  is what I would like to pursue as a career,” may at least make them say, “I totally hate this job and would rather have an alien strapped to my face than ever do it another day in my entire life.”  Now that is a decision!

What can we, as parents, do?

The same thing we always do, Pinky…(sorry, couldn’t resist).  Encourage.

Before College:  Encourage your student to read classics even if they aren’t on the reading list.  Encourage them to challenge themselves and get a tutor in high school if they need it – don’t let them get behind.  If your school offers AP or IB classes, encourage your kids to take them. They prepare students well for college level work.  Dual credit classes at a local community college are wonderful, but be careful.  If your child has no intention of going to a school in your state, those credits may be non-transferable and you will have paid for nothing but the experience. Be sure they are getting computer skills along the way and encourage them to learn all they can about the programs that are most used in business. Help them to be savvy consumers of education so that they are choosing a school that is a fit for them, both in education and cost. Encourage them to think ahead and do research on the career they may be preparing for.

They may choose another path that does not include college but this preparation will serve them well, and their choice will be a choice, not a consequence.

During College:  Encourage them to take internships during the summers, even if they are unpaid.  Each time our daughters did an intern summer, they learned something that either reinforced what they were choosing to do as a career, or it refined their choice. Knowledge is power, and internships can give your kids an amazing experience that will matter. They may change their major, but encourage them to do that earlier, rather than later, when that change will have a cost in time and money.

After College: Encourage a targeted job search or even an advanced degree if they think there will be an economic payback. Take a look at the industries that are hiring recent graduates and see if additional classes or training will take that not so lucrative degree and turn it into an open door to a career.  It could be an MBA, or even just technology classes that stretch your degree and add that very employable dimension to it.  I recently heard an expert in this field say, “I don’t consider technology as an employment category.  It is a skill set, and employees who neglect this area of knowledge will pay for it in lower-income jobs.”

Good luck out there!

2 thoughts on “A Career Crisis for Our Kids

  1. As a parent, I think that 18 is too young to decide on a career choice. I see so many young people who are deep into student debt and realized that their education didn’t lead them into a career that they wanted. Delaying education after high school maybe a better choice for a lot of young people.

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  2. I agree, and many European countries have wonderful programs that allow internship after high school, before students make their decisions about college. Many American kids are not only making career choices as early as 17, they are actually taking five to six years to graduate from supposedly four year programs. Their educational experience is getting extended whether they intended that or not, and the costs that go with it can be prohibitive. Our older daughter took a year between college and law school to get work experience and be sure that the law was her calling. It was a good choice for her.

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