How on Earth Do We Prepare Them for the Future of Work?
Today’s children are growing towards a future that many parents don’t understand. From the statistics, it is clear that many parents are encountering career challenges of their own. For example, about half of our nation’s workers now characterize themselves as “underemployed.” In most cases, these are individuals who are having great difficulty with change. Accessing the new world of work requires developing life skills that many adults continue to avoid. To thrive in the new world of work, a new mindset is in order. Mindsets point out change, and yet, there is plenty of room to breathe.
If every person in a household become more literate about the emerging opportunities of work, we become participants in the future of work rather than being stuck in the past.
But, the need to develop a new mindset about work is not only valuable for adults who work. A new outlook can allow all of us to become more confident and informed on how to mentor our children into a brilliant and bright future.
Before continuing, here are my qualifications on the subject of work. I have directly supported the career transformations of over 45,000 people. Our teams have designed unique leadership, executive development, and employee engagement programs for some of the most celebrated brands in media, education, healthcare, and technology.
During that time, I have concluded that we learn nothing of value by studying dysfunction or failure. Our most practical and desirable educations arise from studying the people and organizations that have successfully solved our problem. What are they doing that is different from those who are failing?
In that spirit, let’s compare the old to the new mindsets:
The Industrial Revolution gave us predictable livelihoods.
Technology is giving us freedom
Much has been made in how outsourcing, software, and robotics are taking our jobs. The fact is that technology is giving us freedom from tasks. The revolution is paving the way for work that is far more interesting, engaging, and meaningful.
As task work collapses, most of us are being offered a new form of work that is far more interesting, engaging, and meaningful. The mind-numbing work involved with clocking-in and clocking-out is quickly being turned over to technology.
Freedom is being unchained from the workstations. Freedom is building a new landscape where doing the work that we love will also drive us to change and to do whatever it takes to succeed. Some of us will return to task work only to realize no longer provides security. When we treat work as “just a job,” another tidal wave of change appears, without a vision, we will duck or stop whatever we are doing.
There is another aspect of freedom that is growing quite rapidly today. Virtual work is helping many people develop greater balance in their lives and ending daily and lengthy commutes. If there is any doubt, I asked the CEO of one of the world’s largest commercial real estate firms how telecommuting had impacted real estate over the last ten years. He said there had been a 12% reduction of office space in one year. Many of our individual clients are using Zoom & Skype to run international businesses from their homes.
As task work becomes more scarce and cheaper, the new world of work is based on the very qualities that improve our lives. Many of our greatest business journalists such as Daniel Pink and Kevin Kelly give us examples of what is coming. The new work that is emerging as we speak is less about activity and more about value. There is a wide variety of characteristics. Words that have already become common include accountability, problem-solving, creativity, sales, empathy, teaching, helping, and, of course, technology.
Will this take courage? Absolutely. Many of our most respected academic leaders tell us the average college graduate will change careers, not jobs, 4-6 times. There is nothing of value from the past in terms of understanding how to deal with that kind of disruption. Even highly-paid white-collar positions have already been impacted. Associate attorneys in large firms are being shown the door because of LegalZoom. Mid-level recruiters are in low demand due to LinkedIn’s impact on the market.
Growing courage within ourselves and our children is vital to thriving in the new world of work. Courage, just to be clear, is to take the necessary action whether we are confident or shaking with fear.
The Seismic Shifts in Education
The most popular reason that we sent our children to universities was to become credentialed in the desired profession. In the norm, education has been treated as another chore or task. When we got the degree, we went to work. For many, that rite of passage signified the end of their education. Today, the rate of change is so fierce that a degree is obsolete in a short period of time. Savvy employers will now only hire active learners. These are individuals who love to learn. Their ongoing commitment to learning makes them better and more contributive employees. Active learners don’t become obsolete.
Today, any skilled hiring manager can determine where a candidate is with learning by asking a few simple questions. These three changes with the purpose of education ought to be facilitated within the family.
We shift the focus of education from providing a credential to learning how to learn. Families can support this need by generating praise and rewards for learning and growing outside of the schools.
In a world where the difference between jobs and business ownership becomes far more fluid. But, regardless of the direct circumstances, we simply must build the life skills of sales, presentations, and building customized support systems. Consider that many people don’t declare what they want to do with their lives because they assume the right people will not help them. But, when we define exactly what we want to do our lives, our success hinges on getting the right people to help us.
Developing these skills within parents is life-transforming. One of the many reasons that we learn the skills is to fuel our own success. On the other hand, we cannot assume that our educational systems will teach the skills.
While so many politicians are complaining about the debt we are accumulating with education, there are a variety of multinational technology firms that are releasing online higher education without charging a dime. Many of our smartest kids are hacking an education online. Finally, when we support our children to do the work they love, they will naturally study what they love. As that happens, we will find greater use of trade schools, apprenticeships, and other alternatives to traditional education.
The New Role for Parents
On a spiritual and emotional level, pushing our children into educations and professions that did not fit them never worked. But now, that rote, shoot-from-the-hip pressure will handicap their success. Job titles, industries, organizations are growing and failing with head-spinning speed. By supporting our children to connect with meaning, purpose, enthusiasm, and impact, we are giving them the tools to lead far more successful lives.
In the changing landscape, we ought to be shocked that parents are telling their kids, “You will not have the kinds of opportunities that I had.” This is not a time for lowered expectations. This is the time to define the work we were born to do.
No one captures the ethos of this better than Jack Canfield. When I launched Inspired Work in 1990, Jack became one of my greatest mentors. Chicken Soup for the Soul had just taken off after many years of persistent writing.
When I wrote my first book, I asked Jack what he did to prepare his two sons for the future of work. His answer tells it all with simplicity;
“In terms of professions, I told them to pick whatever they loved doing. There were no restrictions. But, I made it clear to them that anything less than love wasn’t enough. Then, I focused all of my energy as a father to instill in them the confidence they could deal with anything the world could dish out to them.”
The Rise of Meaning in Work
The fastest-growing segment in business today is with social entrepreneurism. These are the individuals that are proving we can solve the world’s problems and sustain that solution by making it profitable.
One of the greatest advocates of social entrepreneurism, Peter Diamandis, Co-founder of X-Prize and author of Bold. He tells us,
“When I think about creating abundance, it’s not about creating a life of luxury for everybody on this planet; it’s about creating a life of possibility. It is about taking that which was scarce and making it abundant.”
X-Prize has helped bring billions of dollars into funding innovations that make our world better.
The rise of meaning in work is producing challenges, right now, that you and your children might want to explore.
- If our company cures cancer, how will we remain in business?
- If this breakthrough extends human life by 50-70 years, how will we deal with traditional wealth transfer?
- If my child now has an abundance of educational options, which one is right-sized for our family and the best one for our child?
We really don’t learn much by studying or fixating the problem. At some point, our time and energy aren’t about breaking through, our time is consumed to live one more day with the problem. Study the people that have solved your problem.
Instead of worrying about the future, become part of the solution.
Finally, pay attention to the amazing and successful individuals who really are changing the world.
These are the people will show us how to rise.