Some conversations can change a future!
An old colleague of mine was an ace at counting currency notes. His fingers would move with the same dizzy, often mesmeric, speed as a bank machine. With pretty much the same accuracy too. The reason — he’d grown up working in the family gas stations at a time when they still turned around a lot of cash.
Another friend was superb at food planning for events and parties — think fancy menus at decent costs. Several summers of interning during middle and high school in her neighbor’s catering business was her secret.
Experience is knowledge. The rest is only info.
There is no denying that people who’ve worked jobs — paying or otherwise — while growing up, pick up workplace and people skills earlier. Kids who are employed in family businesses often have an advantage when they grow up and work in the same industry. Summer job, a weekend gig or full time work, experience seems to count as much as expertise.
But what if a kid isn’t working much?
This is very true of teens today and interestingly, the culprits aren’t the devices or the couch. It’s the classroom. The pressure of school work and afterschool activities means that far fewer kids have jobs today than they did a decade ago, particularly when there’s no financial need.
So what can we as parents do?
Expose kids to our own work and (some of) what it entails! If they can’t have a lot of experience, they can certainly glean insights from ours. And don’t wait till they are in their teens — more than age, it’s the context that matters.
Can second-hand experience help?
I remember my father telling me about his work in Personnel when I was in middle school. It was my first understanding of concepts like performance appraisals and the value of positive feedback. And it felt great listening to his ‘adult work stuff.’
Many successful entrepreneurs I work with, feel that what the most important thing they got from their parents was on-the-job observations and conversations, not necessarily financial help. As it turns out, talking shop at dinner and inherited industry knowledge can help hugely!
Kids naturally gravitate towards grown up problems.
My 6 year old daughter refused to do simple arithmetic, but gleefully dived in in when I asked her to help me out with ‘business problems’ for my clients. That she actually had to do more work solving word problems rather than simple sums, mattered not one whit.
Tell me what you did today
“I worked at enterprise transformation, didn’t go to Java and totally felt like a SAP.”
Jokes aside, job descriptions are becoming more incomprehensible and technology-centric every day. So unless we can learn to simplify them into more common denominators, our kids will carry nothing of our workplace knowledge into their own professional journeys.
And they will take longer to learn what most of us have discovered over and again — no matter what you do, it’s people you work with!
Don’t give me advice. Give me an example.
Are you dealing with a tough co-worker? Salvaged a meeting that went south? How did you react when a colleague’s laxity cost the whole team? What’s the best way to deal with office grapevine or even the tedium of a long commute?
Sharing your challenges is great, because not only do kids learn that adults have bad days too, they begin to grasp the specifics. And ditto for wins.
It’s not just a problem. It’s an ice breaker
On any given day, chances are that any normal teen would rather talk about anything but themselves, so you’re basically letting them off the hook. Plus, when we talk about our problems, it is an easier progression to where they feel comfortable about sharing theirs.
Teach the kids, Abraham Lincoln once said, so it will not be necessary to teach the adults.
As a classroom mentor, I constantly get questions about my work. Students ranging from second grade classrooms to seniors poised for jobs and college, ask me a ton of stuff.
Why do businesses need your tips to make theirs better?
What if you can’t solve a client’s problems?
What’s your work like or describe your working day.
What if someone gives you a hard time at work?
I even get asked what I eat for lunch, but that’s a story for another day.
So, can this really work?
Will a few conversations propel our children into the dizzy orbit of success, you might ask.
Not necessarily. And certainly not always.
But it can definitely offer them a blueprint, or a primer on basic people skills, even functional knowledge. On how all that education works in the ‘real world.’
In the end, it doesn’t matter WHAT they do. It’s how.
Remember that friend of mine, the one who speed-counted banknotes? He did his MBA and now works in McKinsey. But well before that, his quick action at the gas station saved his and his brother’s life when he set off the alarm to avert an armed robbery.
As he told me, ‘never thought that all those endless lectures from Dad about sizing up customers quickly would actually came in handy one day!’
As a volunteer Classroom Mentor, I’m very passionate about bringing workplace skills and ideas to students of all ages. At my companies, Maroon Oak and Win Thinks, I help entrepreneurs build better businesses and brands.
Image: ConnexionsTags: entrepreneurship experiences parenting student skills