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By David Harder on May, 9, 2017

Are We Preparing or Killing Our Children’s Future Careers?

How many career dinosaurs are being sent to college every year?

I was giving a keynote speech entitled, The Art of Change. During the question and answer session, a rather dignified and well-dressed gentleman vigorously raised his hand. His body language seemed uncomfortable and angry. Of course, he was my first pick. He asked, “What do you have to tell these young people who want to pursue a ‘feel good’ degree like environmental science?” I paused quite a long time, wanting the question to sink into the audience. Then, it came. “Well, actually, I was thinking that environmental science is a rather courageous and vital career choice.”

Continuing, I shared that since today’s college graduates are going to change careers four to six times we need an entirely new approach to prepare our children for the future of work. Many of the jobs our children will pursue have yet to be invented. And, in a world of constant change, we ought to be helping young people identify what they love and what is meaningful to them. For those of us who grew up in the Industrial Revolution, this must sound like pig latin. But, the importance of finding work that we love applies equally to adults today. Successful change and reinvention require wakefulness, learning, engagement and new skills. While change requires courage, we ought to be far more frightened of living with ambivalence or even hatred for our work. Without love and even passion, the probability of successful change becomes dramatically lower. More so, the state deadens our senses, our imagination and consequently our ability to move on.

After the speaking event came to an end, the same man stridently walked over. He brought up the possibility of my coming to speak at an organization he serves. We asked him what it was and he said, “I run two career development programs for (name withheld) high school.” It is one of the most prominent charter schools in America. I thought of this well-meaning man dishing out advice like this in one of the country’s more sophisticated communities. But, such advice is often automatic and taken for granted. The problem is it can either create a new assumption or support the mistruths young people are getting from other sources.

Today’s huge central “flip” that must take place in how we plan and drive our careers is to derive security from our growth. Today’s four-year or graduate degree isn’t an endgame, it is simply a license to learn and it is an introductory course to active learning. Does that sound like a lot of needless work? It is actually what healthy, vital and the most pursued employers look for – first and foremost. For those of us who’ve successfully become active learners, the experience introduces us to a world of growth unlike anything before.

So if you are a parent, make sure your children are getting healthy and realistic career development support at school and at home. Tomorrow will be filled with more entrepreneurs, disruptors, problem solvers, teachers and jobs that have not been invented. Creativity such as design and writing will be in demand. Actually, an MFA is far more salable today than an MBA. Empathy, the ability to connect with others is also a significant trend that will only grow. More importantly, we need to teach our children to sell, to draw healthy attention to themselves, to learn how to connect with others skillfully and quickly, to present others effectively and to build support systems or better yet, communities that are tailored to their unique mission, vision and purpose. Quite frankly, the country’s entire educational system is running from these skills! Sadly, many parents have run from these critical success skills as well. If the world is rapidly changing every day, how on earth will our children thrive without these skills?

Kevin Kelly, author of The Inevitable (Viking) tells us the rate of change has sped up to point where there is no destination. We are “becoming.” In other words, we are learning and moving so quickly that we are always growing into someone new. In front of us are worlds that few parents recognize, especially if they got hammered into shape by their elder’s career advice. But, telling our children to do something they didn’t really want to do or even worse, didn’t really care about, was always a soul killer. Today, it can be a career killer. The “addiction” of telling young people “don’t be you” is a cornerstone of the traditional rebellion that often tears families apart and pits teenagers against their parents. Why? If we work against the truth, eventually that truth will do whatever it takes to break free and if necessary, the spirit will go to war.

Once, I was interviewing Jack Canfield and I asked him what he did to prepare his two sons for work. He responded, “I always told them to do whatever makes you happy. Then, I centered all of my attention and energy in instilling the confidence they could deal with anything life dished out to them. Jack intuitively helped them become good with sales, communications, asking for help and engaging with others. Success and happiness came their way.

Our children need new voices and our parents need a new language and mindset. If we can’t find that, at the very least, have the courage to tell them, “Don’t do what I did.” At Inspired Work, we are studying children these days and find they have far more wisdom than we give them credit for.

In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion they are already ahead of us.

Within every child is a mission, vision, and purpose that is probably beyond our understanding. What is going to happen when we apply our energy and love in helping them discover that purpose? What kind of world will we live in when we teach them the life skills to thrive and succeed as unique human beings? With unique problems to solve?

Life will certainly become more interesting.

Brought to you by David Harder, President – Inspired Work, Inc.

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