What is the best career advice you ever received? Today’s college students are accumulating more debt than any previous generation. Unfortunately, their chosen major often leaves them ill-prepared to find a job that can support their dreams of a home, family, and retirement.
How many of you took the initiative to research the job market, earnings potential, or work skills required when you were selecting your college or course of study? Statistics suggest that less people are satisfied with their jobs and many need more than one to make ends meet.
Garrison Keillor, long-time host of Prairie Home Companion, used to feature the Professional Organization of English Majors as a show sponsor. Frequently these college graduates were found flipping burgers, writing press releases, or teaching English as a second language instead of discussing the redemptive qualities of some famous novel in a high school classroom.
Keillor’s good-natured humor about a profession he obviously loved as a writer, contained plenty of truth. Choosing a career as an English major in today’s work environment will probably not put you on a path toward self-reliance. No amount of eloquent, loquacious, invigorating, captivating, exhilarating, or scintillating conversation will earn you big bucks – unless you are a radio star like Keillor. In other words, you may end up living in your parent’s basement for a long time.
Those of us who are leaders in our businesses and professions should be seeking ways to help young people as they make career choices. Here are a few of my ideas:
- Introduce them to talent assessments, like StrengthsFinder, that can guide them toward careers that match their natural strengths.
- Be willing to mentor them or invite them to job shadow for a day so they can see how the world of work actually works.
- Talk honestly to them about the viability of the field they plan to study. What are the actual job opportunities?
- Help them to explore salaries by career or specialty. Show them how to use LinkedIn to search for job postings so they understand the expectations.
- Encourage them to consider the trades since many of these jobs are no longer low-skill, low-pay careers. They also offer plenty of opportunities to master a particular skill.
- Teach your children about the importance of job satisfaction and financial independence. Share more about your family finances so they see the connection between working hard and success.
Anyone who has been successful in their career knows the path is never easy. But it is definitely worth it. My career advice is an attempt to speak truth about a problem that too many leaders are ignoring. Offer your own tips if you wish.
The next generation of workers won’t achieve success with good intentions. Just ask any member of the Professional Organization of English Majors.