PART II: The importance and value of employment opportunities (the “Y”)
Once we understand as parents how the marketplace and employment opportunities are different today (Refer to Part 1: Understanding The World Is Different Today) from when we grew up, then we can begin to better assist our children in the process of looking for summer employment.
Through the research of my book I came to understand how certain things that I thought were commonplace in my growth are now missing today for our children. I believe that there are four major areas that are crucial to our children’s success and can be taught to them through employment opportunities:
- Making mistakes and learning from failure
- Investigating and experiencing different industries and corporate cultures
- Developing life skills and core competencies
- Creating your network
Mistakes/Failure: I was in a business meeting on millennial engagement and motivation and was asked how businesses are different today from 25 years ago. One of the major differences between then and now is how we view failure and mistakes. Today we put so much pressure on our children to be perfect and do things right. THIS IS A BIG MISTAKE. In order to learn and grow we need to make mistakes, fail. But when we fail, we need to learn to pick ourselves up and make tweaks or changes accordingly and try again. This process opens us up to creativity, innovation and taking risks for future progress/gain. Successful people will tell you that their path had many mistakes, failures and learning opportunities. This is what brought them to their current success.
As parents we need to stop enabling our children and ‘saving’ them. The best gift you can give your child is to allow them to fail now when the stakes are much smaller. What is more important is supporting them in their learning and growth. Ask them what they learned from this and ways they potentially could have done things differently. What better environment can there be to make mistakes and learn than that of a workplace? By exposing our children to employment experiences, we allow them the chance to make mistakes and improve on them early on so that they are ahead of the game by the time they graduate.
Investigate industries and corporate culture: The marketplace is dynamic and always changing. Industries and jobs are being affected due to globalization and automation. One-third of the jobs we know today will go by the wayside by the year 2030. New ones will open up. Now is the time to encourage your children (especially if they do not know what they want to do or what really interests them) to explore an industry and ‘try it out’ to see if this is the industry they see for their future career path. Your children can also investigate different corporate cultures: more structured vs. less structured, open concept vs. more closed, forward thinking vs. more conservative.
By doing so it will give them a chance to see which environment they flourish in and which one they shrink from. Summer employment whether interning, volunteering or being paid for part or full-time work allows your child to explore their options. This experience can be life altering and from this they may determine that the path they are on is right for them or they may choose to change their course to something more suited to them.
Develop life skills and core competencies: Unless your child is in a co-operative or apprenticeship type program his studies are more theoretical and knowledge-based. There is so much value in hands-on learning in terms of both the technical and life skills learning. Employers today are less intrigued by degree titles and more interested in your core competencies and life skills: Are you a team player? What type of leader are you? Can you articulate yourself? Can you make decisions and be accountable for them? How do you contribute to the overall success of the company? Do you get along with people? How well do you take instruction and suggestions?
I cannot express enough how important developing your life skills and core competencies are to your children’s success. And more important is teaching them how to articulate this to a future employer; what value they can bring to the company. Interviews are a great way to understand what skills we bring to the table and more importantly, practice the skill of communicating our value-add to others. Encourage your children to master the interview process, high marks and a good resume are only half the battle – selling yourself is the other half!
(Tip: Use Career Cruising’s My Skills assessment with your children to see what skills they’ve perfected and where they need to improve based on their career interests.)
Networking: As parents we know the value of networking whether it be for sports, school or work. Your children may find in his or her position a network of people who could support, guide and maybe even mentor him or her not just for that work term but for years to come. These relationships are invaluable and can open up so many doors especially when they graduate. Make sure you relay the importance of having a strong network to your children and encourage them to be proactive in creating lasting relationships.
By understanding what your children face in today’s market and supporting them through it can give them the competitive advantage they need to do well. You can become your child’s greatest advocate and assist them in their career/work journey by demonstrating the importance of real world opportunities to them.
Tip: Work with your children’s schools to arrange opportunities for local employers to go into classrooms and show students what the real world looks and feel like. Similarly, encourage local employers in your network to provide internship and work opportunities to students in your community. A partnership between schools, employers and parents can go a long way in preparing our youth to succeed in this competitive market! Not to mention – it gives our employers access to the best up and coming talent.
ABOUT SANDRA FINKELSTEIN
Sandra Finkelstein is an author, youth advocate and empowerment consultant. Her book, We're Not Gonna Take It is a resource book geared to the millennial youth to give them, their parents and youth workers the tools and resources to assist in their decision-making process and provide the foundation for their success in this market. She is currently working with companies on intergenerational relationships (motivation and engagement strategies that bridge the gap between different age groups to create a cohesive and engaged work environment).