CareerAdviceWorking with post-corporate executives has alerted me to something important – you need to give your kids better advice on their careers.

Here’s why.

Because the dream of your child growing up, going to University, getting a job, rising through the ranks and retiring at 62 is gone. It’s not reality today and it will be even less realistic ten years from now.

Some things you need to understand about your kids:

First, they won’t just want to work when they grow up. They will want to travel, have friends, experience life. They will want to start everything later. Including their careers.

Second, when they do decide to work, they won’t find slipping into a high pay, high potential entry job that easy. It takes longer and the opportunities aren’t as good or plentiful. Back in ancient times, we could count on all the large companies recruiting on campus. That just doesn’t happen anymore.

Third, when they ultimately do get a nice, well paying job, your kids won’t stick to it. They will move around seeking better work environments and more pay.

Fourth, forced to finally settle for decent pay and some stability as they raise their own families, they will suddenly be confronted by job loss that will occur at any time – and certainly by the time they are in their forties. At that point, job loss could be permanent with their high paying, stable positions filled by younger, less expensive talent.

Finally, they will live longer. In fact, kids born this year will have an average life expectancy of 100 years.

So think of it this way. A career that starts at thirty and ends at forty-five is only fifteen years out of a hundred. That’s not a career. That’s a phase. And you need to give your kids better advice to prepare now for those other eighty-five years when someone else isn’t employing them.

Here are my thoughts on how:

  1. Explain reality to them. Make sure they understand that no job is forever and careers are dead. That’s getting easier to explain to our kids as many of them have seen their parents unemployed even as they’ve struggled with the challenge of landing a first, decent job.
  1. Make sure they foresee the ramifications of leaving everything until later in life – like having their own kids. Have them imagine the stressful consequences of starting a family in their mid-thirties and being permanently unemployed by their mid-forties. Private school for their kids? University? Without some great foresight and a nice inheritance from you, good luck.
  1. Help them learn and get comfortable with important entrepreneurial skills – like questioning the status quo, spotting untapped opportunities, taking risks, guerilla marketing, face-to-face selling – and perhaps most importantly, how to understand finances and maximize profits.
  1. Introduce them to thinking like a freelancer. Freelancers have well-defined, well-developed skills that they sell to the market place on a contract basis. Typically, those skills are quite tactical. Freelancers today are programmers, website designers, graphic artists, electrician and plumbers. Who knows what they will be in the future. What they won’t be – and they aren’t today – is CEO’s, Marketing Directors, or even Partners in law and accounting firms. Those are the high-risk jobs that they may well be fired from.

In the future, I’m pretty sure a lot of this preparatory learning will be taught to our kids in primary school. However, for now it will be up to parents to look ahead and foresee the critical changes that are already well under way. For some parents that won’t be easy. But living in the past will be even worse. Especially for the kids.