She wants to be a singer; you think she should go for a long-term career with job security and eventually retire with a good pension. But a new report suggests that in fact she’s the practical one. Why do parents make terrible careers advisers?
Today’s 14 and 15-year-olds are ambitious. They are optimistic about their prospects, but their career ideas are rather vague. Although 80 % of them have no intention of following in their parents’ footsteps, 69% still turn to their working future in a different way to their parents.
A job for life is not in their vocabulary; neither is a dead-end but secure job that is boring but pays the bills. Almost half the boys surveyed expected that their hobbies would lead them into the right sort of job, while most girls seemed determined to avoid traditionally female careers such as nursing.
In the past, this might have counted as bad news. Certainly when I was 15, my guidance counselors were horrified at my plans to become a writer. I’m glad I didn’t change my plans to suit them. Even so, their faith in rigid career path was well-founded. In those days, that was the way to get ahead.
But the world has changed. The global economy is not kind to yesterday’s diligent and dependable worker. The future belongs to quick-thinking people who are resourceful, ambitious and can take the initiative. This means that a 14-year-old who sees her working future as a kind of adventure, to be made up as she goes along, is not necessarily being unrealistic.
However, she has to have the training and guidance to help her develop the right skills for today’s market; not the rigid preparation for a workplace that disappeared twenty years ago. Many young people are very aware of the pitfalls of the flexible workplace; they understand that redundancy, downsizing and freelancing are all part of modern working life, but no one is telling them how they might be able to turn the new rules of the employment game to their advantage. This is what they need to know if they are to make a life for themselves.
So what is to be done? A good first step would be to change the way in which schools prepare young people for adult life. The education system is becoming less flexible and more obsessed with traditional skills at just the time that the employment market is going in the opposite direction.
Accurate, up-to-date information on new jobs and qualifications can help guidance counsellors to help their students. Young people need solid information on the sort of training they need to pursue the career of their dreams. Also, a little bit of encouragement from an adult can serve as an antidote to the constant criticism of teenagers in the press.
What, then, can we as parents do to help them? The best thing is to forget all the advice that your parents gave you, and step into your teenager’s shoes. Once you’ve done that, it’s easier to see how important it is that they learn how to be independent, resourceful and resilient. Give them the courage to follow their dreams – however odd they might sound right now. In a world that offers economic security to almost no one, imagination is a terrible thing to waste.
a) Look at the article and read the headings A-I below.
A Rethinking the way we teach them
B What young people don’t want
C See the world through their eyes
D A secure future
E Tomorrow’s working person
F The role of the modern careers advisor
G Need to support
H The old attitude
I Positive outlook, unclear plans
What do you think the article is going to be about?
b) Skim the text and highlight the sentences that summarise the main idea of each paragraph. Which words in each paragraph express the same idea as the headings A-I? Underline the words.
c) Now choose from the list (A-I) the heading which best fits each paragraph. There is one heading you do not need to use. There is one example (0).
d) Then think of another title for text. Write your title down.