Over my 15 years of working with adolescents, one of the gravest errors I witnessed on a daily basis is parents who do not have their adolescents get significant work experiences and vocational exposure work before they go to college.
Countless headlines constantly stick this ugly reality in our faces: College is no longer affordable. The outrageous increases that have taken place in American College tuition have made sending your kid to college nearly as costly as buying a house. College tuition is the second greatest debt on the American family spreadsheet, not far behind your home mortgage payment.
There is a key set of adjustments SMART FAMILIES are making to ensure college is a valuable investment rather than a money pit that does not even result in your child having a meaningful, sustainable, and secure career.
I have written a blog about the set of adjustments families are making here:
In this article I’m going to focus on one CRITICAL adjustment: having your adolescent obtain numerous experiences where they gain significant exposure to a very broad variety of potential occupations. You need to understand that even if your child is busy doing sports or traveling on trips, there are easy ways to ensure your child gets significant exposure by:
— Conducting an informational interview by locating professionals who would be willing to talk over coffee or over lunch. This necessitates your adolescent pull together a serious and compelling set of questions that if impressive enough can lead that professional to consider hiring your adolescent to do some part-time work for them.
— Shadowing professionals for a morning, full day, or more to get a live experience of what that professional’s day is like.
— Working for a professional in the evenings or on the weekends, whether for a temporary gig or for a longer period of time.
— Identifying an internship that has flexible hours but that will ensure your adolescent works with those doing things in the field that is being considered.
— Reading autobiographies of people who have careers that your adolescent is currently thinking about.
— Watching movies that are about people in a certain kind of career.
It is critical that your adolescent, beginning in the 6th grade, begin getting significant exposure to a broad diversity of professionals such that by the time they enter high school they have a rough idea of various fields they will then consider in-depth within the first few years of high school. That allows the adolescent, by their junior year of high school, to start considering colleges or technical schools that are in that adolescent’s “CAREER SWEET SPOT.”
But let’s not kid ourselves: before you spend $60,000-$400,000 on your adolescent’s college tuition, the gold standard is becoming to have your child go through a personalized career matching process at some point in their high school career or very early in college.
The movie I made to capture the complexity of the career guidance process:
When statistics tell us that the average college student changes their major six times, and that the vast majority of people do not feel a deep sense of happiness and meaning in their current occupations, you need to understand that the yellow brick road for your child to find a career is not through trial and error. People can no longer afford that process!
Now, behavioral science has given us truly penetrating techniques that ensure people are turned inside out, such that what really drives them can be unleashed through careful matching with occupations that match up with WHO THEY REALLY ARE.
What you need to do is find the right person to ensure your hundreds of thousands of dollars turn into your adolescent finding a stable, meaningful, financially satisfactory occupation. Choose carefully!