Preparing for the world of work

published by the Nashville Business Journal

It’s our obligation as adults, particularly parents, to help prepare the next generation for the big world ahead. And in an ever-changing workplace, that can require some serious career guidance. Everything business people do to coach and lead young adults in their search for rewarding careers is time well spent and will create lifelong memories—not to mention some very proud parents. 

I had the pleasure of career-coaching one bright young man first-hand. When a close friend asked for my help in showing his son Michael the ropes in the business world, I enjoyed sharing my perspective during discussions with this aspiring entrepreneur, as well as showing him some Tractor Supply stores and even the boardroom. I could see his interest growing with each interaction. Michael decided on a business tract, went to college, earned a business degree and now in his late twenties has excelled way beyond his father’s expectations. 

Here are some ways we can all coach our youngsters in career choices. 

Share experiences. Adult leaders who know how to share work experiences with young people in an authentic, non-threatening way can have enormous impact on their career choices. It is unusual for youth to know where they are going in life, so discussing our own struggles and successes can create real-life learning and, ideally, deeper interest and respect for the professional world. 

Invite them inside. What’s better than talking about workplace experiences? Getting youth inside an office, store or other place of employment. Let young adults check out your work place for a day by shadowing you or another leader. Experiencing a professional environment often works to pique a young person’s interest in a specific career, job type or leadership position. It’s easier to make a decision about a career when you can picture yourself in a credible day-to-day role. 

Position opportunities. Some youngsters will head directly to college; others are best served by junior college or trade school. Likewise, it’s our duty to guide specific students into careers that are a good fit, rather than a forced profession. Recently I traveled through a port city where I was amazed by a shipyard advertisement seeking 900 welders—good-paying, blue-collar jobs with an almost limitless demand for talent. The same can be said of our shortfall of quality technology professionals, and the demand for healthcare workers at just about every level seems never ending. 

Start part-time. I started shoveling snow for a supermarket, graduated to cleaning out the stockroom and then on to operating a cash register. It was all uphill from there. I continually coach young folks to consider part-time work during their schooling. Regular work helps develop character and time management skills, while providing spending money and an early understanding of business functions that give job applicants a leg up. Plus, if you put your time in at low-paying, entry-level work in traditional industries like retail, restaurants and hotels, your patience and commitment could pay off in a surprisingly high-paying and rewarding long-term career. 

Job search 101. Mentoring youth in finding quality jobs after completing education calls for an important reality check: Getting a job is a full-time job. One recent college graduate told me he sent out his resumes and was waiting for responses. That won’t cut it in today’s competitive work environment. Job seeking requires research, studying, mailing, networking, calling, knocking on doors and whole lot more.  

If you’ve ever had a professional mentor you know the value of career guidance. Maybe it’s time to pay if forward—nothing could be more rewarding.

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