I read the results of two unrelated studies this week. One surveyed working Americans of all ages and economic levels. The results indicated the 85% of Americans hate their jobs. HATE. The other asked Americans at retirement age about their greatest regret in life. The #1 response was not changing careers. Put them together and you get the alarming reality that most of us don’t like what we’re doing but are not – either by lack of opportunity or lack of will – going to do anything about it until we retire bitter and regretful.
Maybe it is too late for us, maybe it isn’t. But our children still have a chance. I’ve always held that students are pushed to pick a major too early. 17-year-olds aren’t necessarily equipped to pick the career that will define them for the next 50 years (at the rate things are going, it may be optimistic to think our children will be able to retire by age 67). We, as parents, need to do all that we can to encourage and educate our children about the realities of a working life. We’ve got to take steps to put our children in the rarified 15% who enjoy what they do.
That doesn’t mean we indulge our child’s every crazy whim and encourage him or her to be a rodeo clown, rock star, or professional football player (all jobs that sound pretty good compared to your average 9-5 cubicle position). But within each of us are a combination of attitudes and aptitudes that make us more or less suited to the various types of jobs out there. Help your child find his or her skill set early on, but do not — repeat: DO NOT — fall into the trap of boxing them in under a well-meaning but misguided attempt to encourage them.
If your 6 year old wants to be a meteorologist, give her every support and encouragement. But keep an eye out for a change in the wind. Often children will continue to go through the motions in the mistaken belief that she will disappoint mommy and daddy if she has a change of heart. Children need to know that they have your full support regardless of their career choice and that it is OK to change their minds.
Unless they choose the rodeo clown option.