Back in 2006, Florida State University released an interesting (and alarming) study. Their research had found that teenagers had more ambition than ever but they lacked a very important element: realistic goals. Their standards for future employment were almost entirely fantasy based; the study participants were adamant that they wanted to earn an advanced college degree, yet the statistics about advanced degrees showed no increase. Those kids the degrees, they just weren’t going on to get them.
That doesn’t mean they weren’t successful. As the years progress we are seeing more and more people from that generation and later ones making a name for themselves, on their own terms. Startups are created by students all the time and can lead to multi-million dollar companies. App development and online platforms provide a viable option for people to earn a living on their own terms.
That has led to a different kind of ambition. Another survey done by travel company First Choice showed that a majority of today’s teens are wanting to achieve internet fame as a career. In fact, their biggest inspirations are YouTube stars, some of which are making high incomes on their videos.
The Need For Guidance Is Growing
In the past, teenagers had a more limited scope in their future career trajectory. There were less choices and the possibility of starting a business with nothing more than a single idea and hard work (investment and funding are not even necessary for a bootstrap startup these days) was far fetched for most. Instead kids became nurses, cops, doctors, accountants, soldiers…jobs that are still just as critical today yet don’t necessarily appeal to the modern aged teenager.
With so many new and possible career paths catching their eyes, our children need us to help guide them down realistic and fulfilling paths. We need to start showing them that their passion and success can coincide. They just need a realistic path to that end.
How do we do that as parents?
Don’t Deride Their Dreams
Times are changing, as evidenced by the fact that 35% of the US workforce is made up of freelancers. Teenagers have every opportunity to carve a career out of literally anything, if they have the passion, dedication and know-how to do it. So if their ideas seem strange or unrealistic don’t deride them. Help them to realize their potential within a safe framework to do so.
You can help them understand the work involved. You can show them how to get started and let them build their way up. You can show them that there are alternatives that are close to their dreams but more secure or realistic. You can show them that they can pursue their dream while also building a strong career from a well thought out degree plan.
This is our task as parents. We have to help our children both fulfill their dreams and do it in a way that helps them succeed.
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