What Do We Tell Her About The Future of Work?
Today’s college graduates will change careers, not jobs, 4-6 times.
In the Industrial Revolution, we found a good job, which gave us predictability and survival. By and large, political and religious leaders, our educational system and parents fell in line pushing the promise of predictability and survival over fulfillment. So, the natural progression of defining what we were born to do and developing the life skills to be successful, were often cast aside.
“Transitions” didn’t happen very often so the experience of selling oneself, networking and asking for help wasn’t an everyday necessity, something painful to be avoided at all costs. We lived in a world where drawing attention to ourselves brought up a sense that somehow, “they’ll hurt me.” However, being invisible meant starving. Many developed just enough visibility to get by.
Dr. Mary Campbell and I began working together when she was the chief talent officer at USC. Our dialogues on this topic began by pointing out how out-of-sync our educational institutions are in preparing young people for the modern world. This has led to an awareness that parents need a significant update in how to prepare their children for the future of work. Today, many parents are deeply confused about how to even talk about the work of tomorrow. As our country’s unemployment figures shrink, underemployment is growing and emerges as the scourge of modern culture. Underemployment is especially painful amongst recent college graduates where working below one’s capacity or expectations hounds about ½ of the population for up to 10 years after graduation.
The skills that allow us to change ourselves professionally are not technical but they require a certain degree of courage to develop. Tellingly, as fear about change has grown, quite a few people are seeking comfort rather than action. If we role model that behavior to our children, God help us.
What are the key skills for navigating through change? Even better, what are the skills that allow us to become sources of positive change?
Simply relying on “how to make a pitch” is so yesterday. We can start there but even more valued are the consultative sales skills that help us understand the needs and expectations of others.
Body language, demeanor, tone-of-voice, and inflection all contribute to our overall ability to influence others. Making a case on a particular subject has often been developed in programs such as debate, but national figures show the popularity of these programs has plummeted.
For many years, the National Speakers Association has conducted surveys that prove people who develop good presentation skills make well over 60% more income than their peers.
Building Customized Support Systems
Once we define what we want to do with our lives or what we want to accomplish, our success is almost purely based on the quality of support we develop for our cause.
Wise employers weed out individuals who become passive with learning. That group of workers will become obsolete more quickly.
Not long ago, Mary and I spoke at a community event. The group sponsors one of the wealthiest charter schools in the country. The room was singing with energy as they presented “Student of the Month” to a teenager. She refused to come to the podium to accept the recognition. Later, they discussed the valuable life skills they were teaching at the school by showing students how to balance a checkbook. A career counselor asked me, “What do you think of these young people that want to pursue a feel-good degree like environmental protection?” What is so alarming are outlooks like this have become the norm. We fail our young people by allowing them to hide. We insult their intelligence when we make early interests and career choices wrong. Often, we tell them some form of “don’t be you” and wonder why they are not holding their heads up high.
When we push our obsolete ideas of what is right onto our children, we set expectations that have nothing to do with reality.
Every single one of us comes into this world with unique DNA. No one has the same thumbprint. No one will ever see the world through their eyes. What right do we have to tell them they cannot have a unique purpose? As the world of task work crumbles, work will go on. Many of our nation’s greatest futurists, business authors, and tech journalists tell of a world where we must become creative, expansive, problem solvers, storytellers, influencers, empaths, and orchestrators. Invariably, when a child starts telling us what they want to do with their lives, it rarely begins with, I want to fill out forms, meet quotas and increase shareholder value.
How do we overcome these intrinsic shortcomings in our “system?”
Set up new expectations at home. Change the context. Instead of setting up the idea that getting attention is painful, help our young people understand it is what they need to have fulfilling lives. Rather than telling our children they will have fewer opportunities than us, tell them the truth. Tell them that more interesting work is coming down the pike. Encourage them to figure out the work that is most interesting to them.
We are the role models and if we allow our egos to shield our obsolescence, we have given our children the greatest failing of all. We have inferred they will not outshine us.
Mary and I are suggesting that all of us give the preparation of our children the priority that it deserves because this is one issue we cannot afford to screw up.
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