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How to give career advice to your Gen Z kids

How to give career advice to your Gen Z kids
Whether they're your children or grandchildren, here's how to modernise your career advice for your Gen Z kids for National Career Week
Do you remember Miriam Stoppard’s iconic BT advertisement? She played the role of a doting grandmother attempting to cheer her grandson after his GCSE results. She brilliantly caricatured our determination to be unconstrainted cheerleaders with her "people will always need plates" observation. The ad illustrates some of our difficulties in providing good career advice to our own kids.
Our intentions are good. However, when dealing with our children we struggle to be objective. We are far more risk averse, and our suggestions are distorted by sentimental and nostalgic memories of professions we may have wished for ourselves.
The result is often greeted with eye-rolling and semi-polite humouring.

Modernising your career advice

Given these challenges, how should you go about helping your kids prepare for professional life during this National Career Week? Well, it starts with accepting that you may need to change your approach.
"Aim for objective, forward-looking advice that your kids will really appreciate"
To aim instead for objective, forward-looking advice, that your kids will really appreciate. Here are three tips and one golden rule

1. Just don't do it!

Woman talking to a yawning boy
Rather than shoulder the responsibly personally, think about making sure your kids have the right support system. Even the most accomplished businesspeople are still just "mum" or "dad" to their kids. There are a raft of articles providing kids with advice on how to avoid unsolicited parental career advice.
This fits into the category of letting your kid’s discovery answers for themselves. However, we would emphasise the need to ensure the presence of the right support team:
  • A professional role model: an accomplished businessperson who can act as a general mentor.
  • A study-to-job navigator: a teacher or academic resource who can help connect fields of interest with professional "on-ramps".
  • Contemporary role models: friends who have recently navigated job searches who can provide insights.
  • Confidant: a safe space for discussions about doubts, worries, anxieties and stress.

2. Look forward not backward

Another thing we can do is inform ourselves and discuss the megatrends sweeping across the world. These can be general conversation topics to stimulate reflection and gauge the presence of any strong convictions.
"Discuss the megatrends sweeping across the world, such as AI jobs and sustainable energy"
We should make a conscious effort to talk about these as opportunities, not threats.
Here are some examples:
  • New technology will demand new skills. It’s easy to focus on the jobs under threat from AI rather than the new jobs created. WEF predict 97 million new AI jobs will be invented.
  • Cybersecurity will be an existential threat. Consequently, there will be a growing need for skills to monitor, control and hold bad actors to account.
  • Sustainable energy will be paramount. We hear a lot about data being the new gold, so perhaps sustainable energy is the new oxygen. The latest technology only works when plugged in.
  • Humans will seek new ways to be entertained. There is a lighter side to the darkness some predict about technology. Humans are incredibly good at finding new ways to have fun.

3. Building the right skills—Less pottery more AI

Young man on ChatGPT on laptop using AI
In our view it makes less sense to set a goal of an old school vocation like accounting and much more sense to aspire to play a role in one of the megatrends reshaping our business world.
We suggest encouraging the following:
  • Identify with a trend or cause. What we mean here is to describe a career aspiration as working on new energy solutions, or elder care robotics. Focusing more on the theme will help kids think about individual jobs as stepping stones not destinations.
  • Be opportunity led and embrace the ambiguity. This is tough for us as parents, but we need to encourage our kids to embrace uncertainty and see across and between professions. Encourage them not to be labelled as just one thing.
  • Be a first adopter… particularly of AI. Learning how to write code takes 12 weeks. Contributing to AI themes can be self-taught in a week. Today, some "experts" have just 12-18 months experience. It’s all new and that’s an opportunity.

And… the one golden rule

The process of finding jobs is not intuitive or easy. Consequently, the one crucial skill building exercise we should help kids build is how to leverage the following tools and resources:
  • LinkedIn. Increasingly the most powerful online marketplace for jobs, self-promotion, and networking.
  • Professional networks. All major professions have organisations with programmes designed to help kids start careers.
  • NGOs focused on youth development. We have worked with the AFS Youth Assembly but there are others. These organisations provide incredible opportunities for scholarships, networking, and work experience.
  • Apprenticeship programmes. Increasingly there are major government supported programmes focused on helping students launch careers.

The career cup in 2024 is half full

You may be forgiven for believing that Gen Z about to enter the workforce face grave challenges. We have a different view.
"The next generation will have the most level, inclusive and accessible work playing field "
We will concede that big company corporate management careers are in decline. However, they are being replaced by an exciting new set of choices. The world needs completely new thinking to address consequential challenges like climate, social justice, hunger, ageing populations and the ethics of emergent technology.
The accelerating "democratisation" of job opportunities will mean the next generation will be presented with the most level, inclusive, accessible playing field in our history.
What better time to be starting your career? It all sounds amazingly exciting to us.
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Dr Helmut Schuster and Dr David Oxley are career experts and co-authors of A Career Carol: A Tale of Professional Nightmares and How to Navigate Them published by Austin Macauley Publishers and available on Amazon
Banner photo: It's important to be informed when giving career advice to your child. Credit: Shvets Production

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