Children have ever-expanding aspirations and as an adult, it can be challenging to be the voice of encouragement, reason and guidance for them. Their dream jobs now will likely change as they gain experience and it’s up to their guardians to help provide the resources and insight to formulate and revise decisions.
To demonstrate just how much careers choices can change (or stand the test of time) over the years, we asked a handful of our staff what their dream jobs were as children:
To help children explore occupations, see if they can shadow a guardian, a family member, friend at work, or gain a personal mentor in the field. In addition, ‘Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day’ occurs annually on the fourth Thursday of April. There are also numerous children’s’ books about different jobs, science role models and female heroes. Nothing is better than a story that opens a child’s mind to future possibilities! Furthermore, there are a number of blogs that discuss different careers and child-friend activities to help explore them, such as our past posts: Science Career Experiments and The 411 on Engineering. Even new activities are opportunities for job exploration. Exposing children to nature, the arts, museums, animals, traveling and even people will engage their curiosity. By finding out what interests them and delving into it further through reading, activities, discussions and videos, children can find careers that will make them happy and fulfilled.
During job exploration, it is important to be open-minded. That isn’t to say that some job choices may be controversial and should be discussed further, but it is crucial to acknowledge that all jobs are important for various reasons. Prepare children for adulthood by empowering them with information to make their own decisions. Also note, that tasks a guardian personally doesn’t enjoy, may be something that their child does.
Networking Versus Relationships
As children become young adults, they will be encouraged to network- but is that they best way to grow as a professional? According to Harvard Business Review writer, James M. Citrin, rather than networking, children and young adults should focus on having a relationship mindset. “They will be more effective [at finding jobs] and happier if you encourage them to focus less on networking and more on finding ways to develop meaningful relationships,” Citrin states, “based on the timeless truth of give-and-take.” This means children, just as much as adults, should surround themselves with good company. Spending time with an inspiring and supportive group can help children dream bigger and achieve those dreams. There is also the saying, “it’s all about who you know,” in relation to successfully getting jobs; this is directly related to building strong relationships.
The Career Triangle
For young adults who may be struggling to decide on a major or career, introduce them to the Career Triangle. There are three major aspects to every job:
- Job satisfaction: How a person feels about their role in a company, their contributions, how much they are learning and gaining from working there, and their overall pride in being associated with the brand.
- Lifestyle: Consider how one’s personal life is impacted by their professional life. Working hours, commute and even stress levels that impact daily life factor into this.
- Money: This includes base salary, bonus and raise potential, benefits and equity.
Citrin states, “The reality is that it is relatively easy to maximize one of the points on the triangle, and it’s not impossible to optimize a second. But especially in the early years of one’s career, it’s incredibly difficult to max out all three.” Children and young adults should understand that early in their career, it’s okay to not have equilibrium, but that it is something they can achieve as they continue to gain experience. It is also true that if they do not want to have all three points balanced and only want to make money, they can certainly do that too.
One way to encourage a child as they begin to explore the possibilities of a career is to set an example. Children look up to the adults in their lives, so when they see their role models building careers that they are passionate about, they will know it is achievable. This doesn’t mean that getting the job you want is easy. Children and young adults must know that the journey to finding one’s career can be a long and windy one. There is rarely a straight-forward path to reach a goal and sometimes, it takes multiple tries or even a career change to get there. Teaching children to have grit will allow them to persevere through challenges and come out better from them. By being encouraging, no matter how old a kid is, they will always feel comfortable approaching their guardian for advice and mentorship.
The most important take-away is that children need guidance to discover their interests. A job can certainly just be a source of income, but as the saying goes, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”