How to help children be realistic with career goals

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Return to table of contents: 2013 Winter Edition of Family Business Quarterly

Alice Rush, MA, MCC

By Alice Rush, MA, MCC  at CareerU

With skyrocketing unemployment rates and millions of jobs lost to China, India, and other countries overseas in the last ten years, it’s no wonder we as parents are worried about our children’s future careers. Gone it seems are the traditional lifetime career paths, focused on primarily one in depth area of study. Today’s work requires global savvy and a multi-disciplinary approach to education. Given consistent ‘change’ is the only variable we can count on for our children’s future.

How then do we help our kids set realistic career goals, given we’re not sure where the jobs will be in the next 10 years?

Author, Carleen Mackay, emphasizes in her new book titled “Work,” that we need to change our thinking about traditional career paths being available to our children.

Instead, as parents we need to think more realistically about preparing our children on how to become more  “employable for work” as opposed to training for specific jobs. By helping our children develop employable skills and core competencies through work experience, cooperative learning environments and internships, they will become more resilient to meet the demands of diverse employers in the future and will have a greater likelihood of securing work throughout their lives successfully.

In an independent study recently conducted by the Conference Board ( a global business and research association whose mission it is to provide the world’s leading organizations with the practical knowledge they need to improve their performance and better serve society) determined through surveying employers that the most important life/work skills for youth to develop for employability are the following.

  • Collaboration skills and experience working in a fast paced dynamic environment.
  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Oral Communication, public speaking, active listening, and written communication skills.
  • Teamwork
  • Leadership
  • Lifelong Learning/Self Directed
  • Professionalism
  • Work Ethic
  • Social Responsibility
  • Computer Technology

These findings are so important for our youth to develop, that they are printed out on posters and circulated through Folsom Lake College. For more information, go to


Given these are important skills for our children to possess to stay employable over the next decade, how may they develop these skills? Below is a list of ideas and skill-building activities to share with your child, especially if they are working in an internship or even a minimum wage job.

These activities are designed to strengthen and build each of the skills outlined.

  •  Collaboration skills Whenever thinking of recommending a change at work, ask your co-workers for their opinions. 4 heads are better than one!
  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills Be aware of problems that continue to present themselves at work. Gather a group and brainstorm solutions to these problems. Present your findings to the boss.
  • Creativity and Innovation skills How about finding something at work that could be improved upon? Implement the change, and record the positive results.
  • Oral Communication, public speaking, active listening, and written communication skills How about leading the next staff meeting at work, listening to co-workers and following up with a written report on the outcomes?
  • Teamwork skills whenever things are slow, always check around and see how you can help out your co-workers. You’ll be known as a team player.
  • Leadership skills Leverage the strengths of others. Think about volunteering to be team captain of a sport, or serve on a Board of Directors for a Youth Association, or ask your boss how you can help her/him on a regular basis.
  • Lifelong Learning/Self Directed skills Take initiative to continue to learn. Sign up for that next class on Business Writing, or join Toastmasters to be a better public speaker, take initiative to learn enthusiastically throughout your life.
  • Professionalism kind and respectful use of words in spoken and written form go a long way toward relationship building and your professionalism. Don’t write anything in email you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the newspaper. Use refined language always, even when others are coarse. Always be conscious of your effect on others. Dress conservatively.
  • Work Ethic Be consistently available to work whenever you are scheduled and whenever your employer needs you. Be flexible.
  • Social Responsibility Volunteering to help in the community is a wonderful way to demonstrate to employers your humanitarian values and ethics.
  • Computer Technology Continue to keep learning, taking classes and practice using new technology and software.

Once your children have mastered these core competencies for career resilience, maybe we can have improved confidence in our kids- knowing they will establish their own job security by building on the very skills employers want.

For more information, contact Alice Rush, MA, MCC, (916) 349-7855

Return to table of contents: 2013 Winter Edition of Family Business Quarterly




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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna ( and her husband have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from U.C. Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture). Her honors thesis was awarded the Kroeber Prize and funding from National Science Foundation grant. Joanna writes to help parents with the modern-day leadership challenges of raising children. She is a contributing writer for The Granite Bay View, the Press Tribune, the Sacramento Examiner, and editor of Banana Moments.