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Monday, September 23, 2013

Encouraging Our Young People Toward Jobs

Perhaps I am stepping out on a limb here, but it’s a limb I’m very comfortable with. (If you don’t agree with me, it’s perfectly okay.) Drum roll . . . . . . I believe that both sons and daughters should be steered by their parents to prepare for a job that will actually provide for their basic needs—food, clothing, and housing.

How can we do this? There are lots of ways. To begin with, we need to understand our child’s strengths and weaknesses. We encourage his strengths while working on his weaknesses. Is your child arty and creative? Does he like science? Is he a math brain? Does he excel in music? Is your child a writer? Encourage those gifts. Enable him to develop them while he is small. Some of your child’s interests will perhaps fall by the wayside with time, but you will— when he’s age fifteen or so—begin to see where he might go in life.

Not all children need a college education. You only have to think a little to know that those who excelled in technology—like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Michael Dell—didn’t have college degrees. (Their brains were far ahead of colleges at the time!) Now, I’m not saying our kids are as bright as those three, but there are lots of jobs out there that require experience over degrees. Especially in manufacturing, it’s advisable to do apprenticeships and learn the process from the ground up. Food is another field where a little bit of ingenuity and a lot of hard work pays off. Invent the next great salad dressing or bacon-flavored dessert, and you’re there! (It helps to have some marketing savvy and financial backing, too!) There are specialized schools for: carpentry, mechanics, cosmetology, electrician training, etc. that would better prepare your child for these fields than a college would.

If your child needs a college education, encourage him to apply himself and take it seriously. College isn’t a four-year party scene. College is preparation for life and should be viewed that way. It’s fine to have some fun, too, of course, but the purpose—and all the money—should be taken seriously. If your child needs a degree (or two, three, or four) to do his calling, make sure his major will actually take him towards that goal. (How many times have people graduated from college with a degree that qualifies them for exactly zero jobs? Too many to count. Even if the degree might help, he further handicaps himself by having no experience under his belt. No one will hire him without experience.)

By the college student’s second or third year, he should be actively working toward a job goal.

Make sure your child (male or female) is majoring in something that will actually prepare him to make enough money to be able to live on after his graduation. There are so many cool majors out there. Each has merit, but not every one is practical. How many history education majors are now not in history nor in education? How many counseling majors don’t have a job? (I’d like to take counseling myself, but I couldn’t feed myself with it.) How many Christian ministries majors (especially girls, here) find themselves out beating the streets to find any job—any job—because they failed to think that maybe they wouldn’t marry their Prince Charming Dream Preacher right out of college? (In fact, they don’t even have a boyfriend.)

Encourage your child to go into a field he likes and to get a degree that will actually qualify him to do something that will feed him, clothe him, and put a roof over his head. If he is arty and creative, why not major in design or education or advertising? Then, make sure he gets hands-on experience in the summers. If he is musical, is he ready for Carnegie Hall? If he has an exceptional talent, yes, encourage him in majoring in voice or in his instrument—with additional study and apprenticeships in view. But, if you have a normally talented child, maybe encourage music education, pedagogy, or a minor in music. If you have a science or math-inclined child, make sure he specializes. He needs to be thinking about where he wants to end up, and what will qualify him for a science or math real job. Does he want to be an actuarial, a laboratory researcher, or an astrophysicist? Help steer him. Is your child a natural born teacher? Help him choose an education program in a school where he ends up with certification. Will he need a master’s degree? Encourage him to go ahead and get his master's right after his first four years. Does your child want to be in medicine? Help him visualize his long-term goal: doctor, nurse, radiologist, cancer specialist, or physical therapist. Does your child want to coach or be a social worker? Help him get the education he needs as well as experience in the community, working with children or with needy people. Help your child to study with an actual job goal in mind.

We want our children to eventually be independent adults. They can only be independent if they have a job that pays enough to live on. I believe both young men and women need to be qualified to do some kind of a paying job. I’m also a great believer in Christian schooling. (More about these topics in future posts. Stay tuned!)

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