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7 Ways to Help Your Child Choose a Career

7 Ways to Help Your Child Choose a Career

Recently, a stranger told me his grandson was about to graduate from high school. He said, “I told him he needs to go to college and he should definitely be an engineer. Being an engineer is a great profession. Don’t you think he should be an engineer?”

“I’ve never met your grandson, and without knowing who he is, what his strengths are, and what he’s passionate about, I can’t say what career he would enjoy. I think it’s great when people choose a career where their strengths and passions combine,” I said.

He cocked his head sideways at me. “Hmmmph,” he scoffed. “Passion. Nobody’s passionate about their job. A job is a job,” he ranted.

I smiled at him, and politely disagreed, telling him that it is possible to do work you absolutely love.

When it comes to choosing a career, people are given all kinds of awful advice, including:

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“Choose the prestigious career.”

“Choose the career that will give you the most money.”

“Choose the safe path.”

“A job is just a job. Work isn’t meant to be fulfilling.”

“So-and-so likes her job, so you should do that too.” Or, the opposite: “So-and-so hates his job, so you should never do that.”

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We spend many hours each week, decade after decade, doing work. Doing work you love makes life much more fulfilling. Therefore, it’s imperative we do a good job of guiding and encouraging our children in their quest to find and do work they love.

According to this article, 80 percent of college students in the United States change their major at least once. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that college students change their major at least three times on average during their college career. Choosing a major, and changing it multiple times, can be a stressful time for students.

When students are in college, they frequently don’t have the life experiences or self-knowledge yet to choose a career path that will best fit them.

Thankfully, there are some things you can do to help your child navigate these decisions.

Here are some tips to help your child choose a career.

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1. Resist treating your child as an extension of you

Your child is a unique individual. They are not you. The things that might drive you absolutely crazy about a certain job might be the things they absolutely love doing. Resist the urge to tell your child to avoid a certain path just because it’s something that doesn’t interest you. Your child might not be interested in attending your alma mater or doing the work you do.

2. Help your child discover their strengths and passions

Encourage your child to visit with a career counselor to take aptitude tests. The Myers-Briggs test, Strong Inventory, and Holland Code were three of the tests I found beneficial when redesigning my career path. While I don’t recommend basing huge decisions off of one test, I do believe it’s very beneficial to take a variety of assessments and look for patterns among the results. If your child is interested in a career that doesn’t appear to line up with their natural strengths, that doesn’t mean you need to immediately rule out that option as a career. Instead, brainstorm how your child could bring their innate strengths to that field. Their uncommon perspective and strengths in that field could allow them to make a very unique, valuable contribution.

Have them take the strengths assessment in the book Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath. Pay attention to what comes easily to them that others seem to struggle with. Having a great understanding of their innate strengths will enable you to help them maximize these strengths. Also, help them figure out what lights them up. This is a free workbook to help people discover their passions. I encourage you to print it out and have each member of your family complete it.

3. Help find a mentor for your child

Seek a positive, encouraging role model for your child. If your child shows strong interest in a certain career path, help your child find an inspiring mentor in that field. Having a great mentor can fuel your child’s career aspirations.

4. Expose your child to a variety of activities to see what piques their interest

Give your child opportunities to try new activities. Expose them to nature, the arts, science, museums, animals, travel, people…there are so many opportunities to enjoy together. Pay attention to what piques their interest. If there is a subject they are curious about or they shows excitement toward, encourage them to learn more about that topic. Oftentimes, the decision to choose a certain line of work comes gradually, as people continue to explore their interests more deeply.

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5. Find your tribe, and encourage your child to find theirs

As Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” As a parent, have you built a wonderful tribe of people around you? And, are you encouraging your child to find their tribe? Challenge your child to get out of their comfort zone and get involved. Whether it’s sports, a service organization, a business club, or any of the many other possibilities, encourage your child to spend time with inspiring peers. Who your child chooses to hang out with can greatly affect how big they dream, what they believe is possible, and the opportunities they seek. Having an amazing tribe of people in their life will help them grow into their full potential and can affect many decisions they make.

6. Set a great example

Your child watches your every move, so work on being a great example of doing work you enjoy. When your child sees you building a career you really love, they will know that it’s possible for them to also find and do work they love. You’re never too old to spend more time doing what you love, so seek what lights you up and do more of what you love and less of the unimportant junk.

7. Be patient and encouraging

Remind your child that the quest to do work they loves is often a long process of self-discovery and experimenting. They may change course as they navigate their career path. Be patient with your child during these difficult decisions, and encourage them to keep learning more about themselves so they can keep growing into the amazing person they are meant to be.

Featured photo credit: Southern Arkansas University/https://flickr.com via flickr.com

More by this author

Dr. Kerry Petsinger

Entrepreneur, Mindset & Performance Coach, & Doctor of Physical Therapy

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Published on March 20, 2019

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

Have you ever felt lost in the minutia of your job?

As a business owner, I can relate to getting bogged down in the day to day operations of my business. Things like inventory, payroll, scheduling, purchasing and employee management take up the bulk of my day.

While these things are important and need to get done, focusing too much on the details can make you lose sight of the big picture. This is why having a good mission statement comes in handy.

What is a Mission Statement?

Put simply, a mission statement is an internal document that provides a clear purpose for the organization. It provides a common reference point for everyone in the organization to start from.

In other words, after reading your company’s mission statement, managers and employees should be able to answer the question “What are company’s main objectives?” For example, Southwest Airlines mission statement reads:[1]

“Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.”

In this single statement, Southwest conveys the company’s goals of providing the highest level of customer service as well as providing a good working environment for their employees.

Mission Statement VS. Vision Statement

While the mission and vision statements are related, there are subtle but distinct differences the you should be aware of.

First of all, a mission statement is designed primarily as an internal company document. It provides clarity and direction for managers and employees.

While there’s nothing wrong with sharing your company’s mission statement with the outside world, its intended audience is within the company.

While a mission statement provides a general framework for the organization, the vision statement is usually a more inspirational statement designed to motivate employees and inspire customers. Going back to Southwest Airlines, their vision statement reads:[2]

“To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.”

This statement inspires good feeling from the customer while motivating the employees to achieve that vision.

What Does a Good Mission Statement Look Like?

When coming up with a mission statement, it’s important to take your time and do it right. Too often, people (especially entrepreneurs) just write down the first thing that comes to mind and they end up with worthless or (worse yet) a generic mission statement that is utterly useless.

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Remember, a mission statement should provide a common framework for everyone in your organization.

When writing a mission statement, you should always try to incorporate the following;

  • What we do?
  • How we do it?
  • Whom do we do it for?
  • What value are we bringing?

Now, you can see how tempting it is to just come up with something generic that ticks off those four boxes. Something like “We provide the best widgets available online for the consumer.”

After all, that did check off all the boxes:

What we do? Provide widgets.

How we do it? Online.

Who do we do it for? The consumer.

What value we bring? The best widgets.

The problem with this mission statement is that it could apply to any number of companies producing the same widget. There is nothing to distinguish your company or its widgets from any of your competitors widgets.

Compare that mission statement to this one:

“We provide the highest quality widgets directly to the consumer at an affordable price backed up with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If our clients aren’t 100% satisfied, we’ll make it right.”

What’s the difference?

Both mission statements answer all the same questions of what, how, whom and value. But in the second statement, they are differentiating their company from all other competitors by answering the question “what makes us unique”.

Another way to read that is, “Why you should buy from us.” In this example, it’s because our widgets are of the highest quality and we stand behind them 100%.

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You might have noticed the statement didn’t say that we sell widgets at the lowest possible price. That’s because we are emphasizing quality and satisfaction over price.

A different company’s mission statement may emphasize selling widgets at the lowest possible price with little to no mention of a guarantee.

Hallmarks of a Good Mission Statement

1. Keep It Brief

Your mission statement should be no longer than three sentences. This is not your company’s magnum opus.

You should be able to distill the what, how, who and why questions into a succinct message.

2. Have a Purpose

A company’s missions statement should include the reason it even exists.

Make clear exactly what the company does with statements like “We strive to provide our customers with …….”

3. Include a “How”

Take this as an opportunity to differentiate your company from its competitors.

How do you provide a product or service that’s different or better than how your competitor provides it?

4. Talk About the Value You Bring to the Table

This is where you can really set yourself apart from the competition. This is the “why” customers should buy from you.

Do you offer the lowest prices? Fastest delivery? Exceptional customer service? Whatever it is that sets you apart and gives your particular products, services or company an advantage talk about it in the mission statement.

5. Make Sure It’s Plausible

It’s okay to shoot for the stars just to settle for the moon, but not in a mission statement.

Being overly ambitious will only set you and your employees up for failure, hurt morale and make you lose credibility. You will also scare away potential investors if they think that you are not being realistic in your mission statement.

6. Make It Unique and Distinctive

Imagine if someone who knew nothing about your business walked in and saw how it was operating, then they read your mission statement. Would they be able to recognize that mission statement was attached to that business? If not re-work it.

7. Think Long Term

A mission statement should be narrow enough so that it provides a common framework for the existing business, but open enough to allow for longer term goals. It should be able to grow as the business grows.

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8. Get Feedback

This is very important, especially from managers and employees.

Getting their input can clarify how they currently see the company and their role within the organization. It’s also a good way to get people “on-board,” as studies show that people are more likely to go along with an idea if they feel included in the decision making process beforehand.

9. Review Often and Revise as Necessary

You should review the missions statement often for two reasons.

First, as a reminder of what the essence of the company is. It’s easy to forget when you are in the day to day grind of the business.

And two, to make sure that the mission statement is still relevant. Things change, and not everything can be anticipated at the time a mission statement was written.

For example, if a mission statement was written before the advent of the internet, a company that use to sell things door to door now probably has a website that people order from. You should always update the mission statement to reflect these changes.

The Value of Mission Statements: Why Go Through All of These in the First Place?

It may seem like a lot of work just for a few sentences that describe a company, but the value of a well written mission statement should not be discounted.

First of all, if you are an entrepreneur, crystallizing the what, how, whom and value questions will keep you focused on the core business and its values.

If you are a manager or other employee, knowing the company’s basic tenants will help inform your interactions with both customers and colleagues alike.

Strategic Planning

A relevant mission statement acts as a framework for strategic planning. It provides guidance and parameters for making strategic decisions for the future of the company.

Measuring Performance

By having the company’s mission in a concrete form, it also allows for an objective measurement of how well the organization is meeting its stated goals at any one time.

Management can identify strengths and weaknesses in the organization based on the criteria set forth in the mission statement and make decisions accordingly.

Solidifying the Company’s Goals and Values for Employees

Part of a well run organization is nurturing happy and productive employees.

As humans, we all have an innate need for both purpose and to be part of something larger than ourselves. Providing employees with a clearly defined mission statement helps to define their role in the larger organization. Thus, fulfilling both of these needs.

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Now I’m not saying that a mission statement can overcome low pay and poor working conditions, but with everything else being equal, it can contribute to a happier and more productive workforce.

To Hold Management Accountable

By creating a mission statement, a company is publicly stating its highest values and goals for the world to see. By doing so, you are inviting both the public and your employees to to scrutinize how well the company lives up to its ideals.

So if you state that you only provide the highest quality products, and then offer something less, it’s fair for both the public and the employees to question, and even call for a change in management.

If management doesn’t take the mission statement seriously, no one else will either; and the legitimate authority that management rely’s on will be diminished.

To Serve as an Example

This is the opposite side of the coin from the previous statement. If the highest levels of management are seen taking the mission statement seriously and actively managing within the framework of the statement, that attitude filters down throughout the organization.

After all, a good employee knows what’s important to their boss and will take the steps necessary to curry favor with them.

Finally, use the company’s mission statement as a way to define roles within the company. You can do this by giving each division in the company a copy of the mission statement and challenge the head of each division to create a mission statement for their respective departments.

Their individual mission statements should focus on how each department fits in and ultimately contributes to the success of the company’s overall mission statement. This serves as both a clarifying and a team building exercise for all parts of the organization.

Final Thoughts

Developing a mission statement is too often just an after-thought, especially for entrepreneurs. We tend to prioritize things that we perceive will give us the biggest “bang for our buck.”

Somehow, taking the time and effort to sit down and think seriously about the what, whom, how and value of our business seems like a waste of time. After all, we got in the business to make money and become successful, isn’t that all we need to know?

That mindset will probably get you started okay, but if you find yourself having any success at all, you’ll find that there really is such a thing as growing pains.

By putting in the time and effort to create a mission statement, you are laying the groundwork that will give you a path to follow in your growth. And isn’t building long term success what we are really after?

More Resources About Achieving Business Success

Featured photo credit: Fab Lentz via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Southwest Airlines: About Page
[2] Fit Small Business: 10 Vision Statement Examples To Spark Your Imagination

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