What do you want to be when you grow up?
This is the question we ask our kids, from those early years when jobs like firefighter, princess, superhero, or rock star might top the lists. We keep asking those questions as our kids get older and we wonder about the directions their lives are taking. We don’t expect (or want) their answers to be:
Miserable… Bored… Frustrated… Tired…
We don’t want our kids to pursue paths that lead to 40 hours of boredom, where every day of the week seems like Monday. A no-good, very bad Monday. But are we really preparing them for life living out their passions? Are we living out our passions and excited to be doing whatever it is we are doing every day? Are we showing them how to live fulfilling lives?
Working Without Passion Hurts Us and Our Kids
An article in Forbes, “What to Do When You Hate Your Job”, cites the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in reports that not even 30% of people between the ages of 31 and 61 rate their feelings toward their jobs as “very satisfied”. The rest of respondents reported being somewhat satisfied or not satisfied at all. Other reports indicate similar dismal findings. Salary.com shows an even lower overall satisfaction level among the workforce with only 15% of people being extremely satisfied with their jobs. And those kids we are raising? They are on the heels of the population with the lowest satisfaction rate (those under the age of 30 years).
Research also shows that when we are in jobs that we really can’t stand, our health declines. People who have jobs that give them low satisfaction:
- Are at higher risks for anxiety and depression
- Are no more satisfied than those who are unemployed
- Are more likely to have high blood pressure, even outside of work
According to Dr. Katharine Brooks, author of You Majored in What? Mapping Your Path from Chaos to Career, there are several different reasons why people don’t like their jobs.
- The position is either too demanding or not demanding enough.
- There has been a lack of training for the position.
- There is not enough job security.
- The relationships with co-workers are negative components of the job.
- The job doesn’t pay well enough.
- There isn’t an opportunity to advance.
- There isn’t the opportunity for flexibility that allows for balancing work and personal time.
- The working conditions are poor, or even dangerous.
- The employee is simply burned out and has no energy to give.
I don’t know about you, but when I lie awake at night and envision my children’s future, I dream about something above somewhat satisfied, of more than limited opportunities and poor working conditions. But how are we going to get there?
Helping Our Kids Find Careers They Love
According to groups such as the Search Institute, we need to be help our kids ignite their sparks – those things in their lives that make their hearts skip a beat, get them energized, and are the “essence of who they are and what they offer to the world.”
The Search Institute’s research shows that only approximately 65% of kids in grades 5 through 12 could identify at least one “spark” in their own lives, and 55% of students reported that someone (such as a teacher or parent) helped them to find their sparks and support them.
Maggie Mistal, a career consultant, agrees with this idea. She says that:
“[People] haven’t clarified their values and thought about how they’d like to use their abilities to make a difference and align their work with their purpose. Too often people assume work is supposed to be a chore so they don’t even look for anything other than that when embarking on a career.”
So if you’re like me and many other parents out there – you want to find a way to help your children be some of those extremely satisfied adults, who have a spark for their day jobs, who have learned to pursue their passions.
Will Education Bring Job Satisfaction to Our Children?
It used to be the sentiment that those students who worked hard in school, got amazing grades, passed tests with flying colors, and attended a four-year college, would be guaranteed success. Now, however, a college degree guarantees a large loan more than anything else, and too many students are graduating with degrees that don’t necessarily align with their passions.
Before you make the assumption for your child that his spark will turn into a full-fledged flame of career enthusiasm because he attends college, spend some time getting to know what those sparks even are. Maybe your child doesn’t even know yet because he has been too busy putting in time in education and not enough time putting in effort and enthusiasm for learning.
- Get to know your child’s school. There are other options out there if you find your child’s school is not nurturing the sparks of students. If we continue to put our kids in the same box of education, we will get the same results – adults who are not very satisfied with their careers (and when you consider how much time goes into a career, they are not very satisfied with their lives).
- Get to know your child. This might sound silly, but do you know your child’s favorite color, what she thinks about when she is staring out the car window, and how she imagines her “perfect day” as an adult?
- Spend one-on-one-fun time with your kids.
- Read the same books your kids read (and then talk about them later).
- Ask them questions – and don’t provide judgment in your reactions to their answers.
- Give your kids opportunities to job shadow. In schools such as those in Germany, high school is not complete without several internship possibilities that put students front and center with careers for several weeks at a time.
- Take your child with you to work for a day.
- Ask your neighbors and family members if your kids can job shadow them.
- Help your kids find mentors in the areas where they have their sparks. This helps them learn networking skills, gives them the inside scoop on the latest trends, and provides a support system for your kids’ dreams.
- Ask your kids if college is something they want. You just might be surprised at what they say when given the opportunity.
Have you noticed that not all of these items are related to school education? Grade point averages and test scores do not equal success. This doesn’t mean that I am an anti-education fanatic. I have one child who is a senior in college, and who plans to continue for many years in graduates school. I should hope so – she wants to become a veterinarian and I’m guessing that most pet owners would like her to receive proper medical training. However, while I value education for the opportunities for learning, I don’t know if college will help all of my children achieve their dreams. Their sparks should be more important than the college degrees on their walls.
I was recently going through a family genealogy book and came across stories about my relatives when they ventured to this country for the first time. They weren’t satisfied with the lives they were living in another country, so they endured travel and terrain unlike any they had ever encountered, and they came to a town barely inhabited – with almost nothing but their determination. They were seeking their own happiness, guided by their own expectations, and ready to face the challenges that were along the paths to their dreams. Let’s get back to a place where we value ingenuity and self-direction. Let’s raise children who will venture on their own, who will be able to mark that box for “extremely satisfied” in life.