How to Help Kids Choose The Best Career

How to Help Kids Choose The Best Career

September 22, 2023

As parents and mentors, guiding our children towards a successful and fulfilling career is one of the most significant responsibilities we hold. Yet making the right career choice is often not as simple as picking one path; it's about navigating life's journey with wisdom and understanding. In this article, we will explore a simple way of defining a career using the terms ‘good,’ ‘better,’ and ‘best.’  

Good: Good careers meet fundamental needs, provide stability, and contribute positively to society. They offer opportunities for growth and development, even though they might not fully align with your passions. 

Better: Going a step further, better careers offer security and also align with an individual's calling or passions. They incorporate self-fulfillment and allow for a connection between work and one's inner self. 

Best: The best careers encompass both fundamental needs and passions along with ownership and control—unlocking freedom of time, purpose, and eventually financial independence. 

 

In the following sections, we'll delve into each of these categories. Additionally, make sure to read to the end for insights on how parents can prepare children to make the best career choices. 

Good 

Building a good career is like laying the essential groundwork for a house; it offers the basic elements of security and stability. When built upon the stability of these fundamental principles, careers have the opportunity to properly develop, providing the basic necessities and also paving the way for future growth and fulfillment. 

Return on Investment (ROI): A good career should offer a tangible ROI, meaning that the time, energy, and financial commitment you invest yield stable outcomes and upward mobility. 

Fair Compensation: A cornerstone of a good career is equitable and transparent payment for your efforts. Your paycheck should be a true reflection of your skills, dedication, and the value you bring to your role. 

Beneficial Impact: A fulfilling career allows you to contribute positively, whether to the well-being of individuals or to the broader economy.  

In Demand: One of the signs of a good career is a consistent and growing demand for the skills or services you provide. High demand signifies job security as well as potential career growth.  

Healthy Work Environment: The environment where you work should prioritize safety and support, creating a comforting and encouraging atmosphere. 

Meeting Basic Needs: Most critically, a good career empowers you to meet your essential family needs, such as housing, food, and other fundamental requirements, ensuring a stable and prosperous life. 

In summary, a good career is grounded in practical financial principles and a stable environment from which to launch. It offers not only financial stability but also serves as a springboard for future growth and fulfillment. 

Better 

A good career fills your pocket; a better careers fills your soul and your pocket. A better career aligns with a sense of calling while also meeting all the qualifications of a good career. 

It's crucial to recognize the historical context. The idea of intertwining passion with career is relatively modern, becoming prevalent only in recent decades. This transformation has been facilitated by the rise in economic stability, both in the United States and globally.  

In today's age of higher economic standards and greater access to educational and financial resources, more people have the ability to pursue their passions. Importantly, the risks and costs of pursuing passions have decreased. This enables the pursuit of 'better' and 'best' careers, which offer greater personal and financial rewards. 

To better understand this societal shift, let's briefly look at Maslow's hierarchy of needs, a psychological theory that arranges human needs in a pyramid. At the base are basic needs like food and shelter. As you move up, you find psychological and self-fulfillment needs, like esteem and self-actualization. As our society has met more of these foundational needs, careers have evolved to offer higher levels of fulfillment, creativity, and potential. 

Indeed, in an era in which the base of Maslow's pyramid is increasingly secure for many, we find truth in Confucius' ancient wisdom: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” 

No longer are careers just about meeting basic needs; they have the potential to offer much more, encompassing work-life balance, personal growth, and alignment with what feels like a true calling. 

However, the fundamentals should not be overlooked. Consider the scores of artists, athletes, and musicians who became so absorbed in their passion that they lost sight of the principles of a stable career. This often results in a disintegration of dreams, health issues, broken relationships, and diminished self-esteem—devastating. 

What distinguishes a 'better' career is its blending of both passion and pragmatism. A better career builds upon the solid foundation of a good career, harmonizing aspirations with necessities. The investment of time and energy then serves a dual purpose, fueling personal dreams and providing the security needed. 

In summary, a better career is a wise combination of the basic elements of a good job as well as pursuit of the specific calling that deeply resonates within you. It's not merely about pursuing dreams but about wisely aligning them with the foundational components of a fulfilling and secure life. 

Best 

The ‘best’ careers weave together the fundamentals of a ‘good’ career, the passion found in ‘better’ ones, yet adds another essential ingredient: ownership. Having ownership of your career begins with legal rights, such as having rights to the income stream of an asset or, more simply stated, having control over something that puts money in your pocket. But it goes far beyond that. Ownership allows you to forge a career that cultivates your personal values and visions. 

While in college, I was lucky enough to have lunch with Warren Buffett. He described ownership as the ability to have your own canvas, to paint with bolder strokes, choosing colors and themes that resonate with you and your core values.  

Here are a few ways ownership can translate into a career: running your own business, entering into partnerships, and owning ideas, such as patents and copyrights. These avenues give you control over your creativity and intellectual endeavors, artfully shaping the life you want. Of course, there are countless ways to obtain ownership; however, you’ll know you’re on the right path when ownership unlocks the following freedoms: 

  • Freedom of Time: This is where ownership transcends monetary gain. By owning the right to an income stream, you're no longer trading your time for money. In the financial planning world, this is often referred to as passive income. Having this type of income, you gain more flexibility to use your time in ways that resonate with your life's priorities. It's not merely about having more hours in a day but having the autonomy to decide how those hours are best spent. 
  • Freedom of Purpose: Ownership allows you to align your professional journey with your personal beliefs, values, and principles. It's a harmonious blend in which your career isn't dictated by others but is instead shaped by your vision and purpose. 

When ownership aligns with your passion and the essentials of a good career, a unique and fertile ground is prepared. Imagine a garden. Without ownership of it, you’re trading your time planting and tending the soil in exchange for the chance to pluck some of your favorite plants from someone else's plot at harvest time. Ownership gives you all the rights to the garden itself; it allows you the freedom to plant and grow the things you want. Cultivated and nourished, the seeds you plant are your investments, your business, and your financial commitments. When sowed in the soil of a career that's aligned with your passions and the fundamentals of a good career, those seeds grow and blossom, yielding a bountiful harvest. 

The beauty of this approach is that it's not about chasing money; it's about following your heart and making wise choices that resonate with your core values. It's about building a life in which money is a means to live your dreams, not a constraint that limits them. 

Ultimately, the fruit of this labor in your own 'garden' is nothing short of financial freedom and independence—a well-stocked granary in times of plenty. Picture the best careers not just as a linear path but as a self-sustaining cycle in which the bounty of this year’s harvest lays the groundwork for the next planting season.  

You're not accumulating wealth as an endgame but as a way to make your journey less about mere survival and more about meaningful, purpose-driven choices. Financial freedom is a resilient silo of resources, one that allows you to weather economic droughts and continue sowing in seasons of opportunity. The financial independence derived from this stocked ‘silo’ offers you more than a life where you’re merely untethered from the necessity of a 9-to-5 job.  

Financial freedom offers the latitude to explore, create, and delve into the pursuits that feed the soul as well as the pocketbook. 

It's not about being 'done' with the work you love; it's about creating an environment where work is something you choose to engage in because it aligns with your passions and personal mission. This financial cushion grants you the autonomy to be proactive rather than reactive, to navigate through periods of scarcity without panic, and to adjust your plans without jeopardizing your well-being. 

The path to financial independence is a journey, not a sprint. It's a process filled with discovery, growth, and fulfillment. It's about creating a life that resonates within you. It represents who you are and what you believe in—a life that empowers you to live your dreams, not just dream them.  

While this journey is a personal trek, it is not a solitary one. As parents, mentors, or guides, we have the unique opportunity to start helping children become prepared for the ‘best’ careers. We can equip them with the tools they need to build a prosperous, meaningful life. We can help them early to develop fundamental financial literacy, identify their passions and unique gifts, and nurture their entrepreneurial skills in recognizing opportunities for ownership. In the following sections, we’ll review a few practical ways to help children on their journey through life. 

Teaching the Fundamentals  

As a Certified Financial Planner™, I've observed that many parents are hesitant to discuss financial matters with their children. This reluctance often stems from the notion that children aren't mature enough to grasp these complex topics. Consequently, parents delay these critical conversations until they deem their children 'ready.' This strategy, however, is misguided. Just as we don't wait for children to master language before teaching them to read and speak, we shouldn't postpone their financial education either.  

In reality, true readiness often arises from early exposure and hands-on experience with managing money, rather than simply appearing with age. Children's adaptable minds are well-suited to understanding basic financial principles, much like they are with language skills. 

Financial challenges that your family encounters can serve as priceless teaching moments for your children. By observing the highs and lows of your financial journey—and the proactive measures you take to navigate them—your children will gain a grounded understanding of the importance of a stable career. Short lessons centered around your family finances can simplify the concept of a career, breaking it down into relatable components that highlight the essence of a fulfilling occupation. 

The family budget is an excellent starting point for these important discussions. Although it may begin modestly—just use a few key categories like housing, food, and insurance—the budget can grow more nuanced as your family gains experience in financial planning. Involving your children in discussions about these financial fundamentals through the lens of a family budget not only informs them about the cost of life's essentials but also equips them with practical knowledge for making career choices that can support not only themselves but also their families. 

Moreover, financial lessons extend beyond mere numbers. At its core, your family budget serves as a numerical reflection of your chosen values. Teaching your children money management within the context of family values provides an emotionally supportive framework that no school or social media platform can replicate. The ultimate goal is not just to make your children financially literate but to help them establish the fundamentals of their financial decision-making system. 

Spark the Passion, Capture the Why  

One of the most rewarding aspects of parenthood or mentorship is helping children discover what genuinely brings them joy. These moments of happiness aren't limited to leisure activities like sports or creative pursuits—they can also emerge in everyday responsibilities and community service. Interests serve as more than simply hobbies; they are a window into your child’s unique skills and God-given gifts. Parents and mentors play an extraordinary role in helping children identify and nurture these gifts. 

Begin by offering opportunities for your children to find out what interests them, and then help them understand why it resonates. Understanding the 'why' behind your child's passions can be both enlightening and rewarding.  

For example, if your child is captivated by football, delve into what specifically attracts them to the sport. It could be the sense of teamwork, the systemized execution of plays, or the developed processes needed for a good defense. 

Similarly, if your child has a fondness for art, determine whether it's the thrill of forming something totally unique or their love for the creative process that captivates them. Some children even find passion in strategy games like chess, another area to explore and promote. 

Next, highlight how these interests align with the needs of your family and the community. If your child thrives on teamwork in football, they may also find satisfaction in community projects that require a collaborative effort, like a neighborhood cleanup. This skill could even translate to family chores that require teamwork, such as assembling a piece of furniture together or organizing a family outing. 

If they appreciate the creative process in art, tasks that call for creative input might be fulfilling for them. They may enjoy redecorating their room, contributing to a community mural, or even helping to plan and cook a creative family dinner.  

Similarly, if your child excels at strategic thinking in games like chess, these skills could benefit family activities that require planning, such as organizing the weekly grocery list or plotting directions for a family road trip, as well as community efforts like organizing a local event or fundraiser. 

Encouraging your children to see the connection between their personal passions and the needs in both their family and the community fosters personal growth and shows them how their unique skills can positively impact those around them. Recognizing the value they bring reinforces their desire to further develop their skills and contribute to others. 

The benefits of this approach are numerous. Your children will be more engaged in what they're doing, which allows you as a parent to invest more effectively in their development. Tailoring activities, services, and lessons around their interests yields a higher return on investment. Ideally, this process is preparing them for future decisions regarding college or a trade school.  

Then, when the time comes to choose a career, they are not aimlessly trying options, hoping something sticks. Nor will they find themselves at the end of their college journey regretting an extremely large investment in a now-irrelevant field. By guiding them to better understand their passions, you alleviate the anxiety and indecision that can paralyze young adults when making pivotal career choices. 

Developing an Entrepreneurial Mindset  

As your child gains confidence in their skill sets and deepens their understanding of their own passions, the next step is to introduce them to the concept of entrepreneurship. This is not just a business term; it's a mindset that empowers them to take ownership of their talents and use them to create value for themselves and others. 

Begin with age-appropriate opportunities for entrepreneurship, like setting up a lemonade stand, organizing a garage sale, or offering a service such as tutoring or pet sitting. These ventures offer hands-on business experience and instill essential financial principles like budgeting, investment, and profit-making. 

Discuss with your child how important principles like honesty, hard work, and kindness can be integrated into their entrepreneurial activities. For instance, being transparent about the cost and source of lemonade ingredients teaches the value of honesty. Hard work is evident in the effort it takes to set up and run the stand.  

As children engage in these activities, discuss key entrepreneurial principles with them. For example, if they've set up a lemonade stand, talk about why they chose a particular location, how they priced the lemonade, and how they can improve or expand the business.  

Once kids gain confidence with more simple endeavors, you can begin to ask questions that further inspire them. For example, what other problems can they solve or needs can they meet in their community? How can they scale their venture to create even more value? The goal is to help them connect their skills and interests with opportunities to make a positive difference. 

By embracing entrepreneurial skills, your child is doing more than just learning to make money—they're learning how to vote within the structure of capitalism. They're discovering that they have the privilege and the responsibility to shape the economy and the world, one venture at a time, from a simple lemonade stand to the eventual development of their own family business, patent, or book copyright. In whatever initiatives children develop ownership, the values they choose to pursue will make a difference. 

The passion of youngsters to make a difference to change the world is strong, but this helps to ground them. The goal is not in telling others how they’re wrong or why they should change this or that policy. It’s about being the change, leading the charge, and showing the world how in the process.  

As parents, mentors, and guides, we can help young adults understand that ownership provides the power to implement the change they wish to see and to live by their own values. This empowerment is perhaps one of the most enduring legacies we can offer. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” 

Be Prepared for Questions 

Discussing career options with your children naturally leads to questions about your own career choices along your journey—a wonderful occasion to delve into the highs and lows of your professional life. Your honesty is key for deepening relationships and influencing their career choices in a meaningful way. 

If you're in a job that's more about financial necessity than personal fulfillment, be transparent about the trade-offs and compromises you've made. Share what you do appreciate in your current position, but also open up about any challenges, setbacks, or decisions you regret. Your candor helps them normalize the inevitable difficulties and ups and downs that will come with any career path. It's fine to have a career that isn't perfect—what matters is demonstrating your commitment to improvement and growth. 

If you're in a career you love, don’t be afraid to express your enthusiasm! Discuss the merits of job satisfaction, the value of ownership, and the genuine happiness that comes from doing work you're passionate about. Your positive experience can serve as an inspiring example, showing them it's possible to achieve both financial stability and personal satisfaction. 

When faced with questions that stump you, it's completely okay to say, “I don't know, but we can work on finding out together.” This cooperative approach not only maintains the integrity of the conversation—it also sets the stage for ongoing, meaningful dialogue. 

The key takeaway is that it's less about where you start in your career and more about the trajectory you're on. By embracing an open discussion, revealing your own career ups and downs, and committing to a cooperative search for answers, you’re building a strong foundation for enriching, family-inclusive conversations about career choices, life paths, and a successful future. 


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