This phrase, "it is never too late" can be seductive though and I use seductive in the same way that Greek sirens were seductive. Ulysses met an island of sirens in the Odyssey where they tried to lure him and his men to shipwreck with their enchanting singing and beautiful voices. He escaped but the analogy holds true. If our kids follow the path of "least decision" they may find their careers shipwrecked.
Nevertheless, as our kids can expect longer and longer lives thanks to better diets, exercise, and medicine, there is time for multiple careers and late bloomers. Figuring out what they want to do is not something our kids necessarily need to be rushed into.
One of the biggest challenges our children face though is their own preconceptions. When our kids are 18, they think they are adults and there is no time for anything. How many college graduates do you think there are, who upon graduation, decide to go back to college for a completely new degree? Granted there is a cost but I warrant that most consider the additional 3 to 4 years more than they do the expense. When your daughter is 23, looking ahead to being 26, graduating (again) seems like it will be too late and too old. This is reinforced by all her friends who are graduating and getting into jobs now. Our kids are growing up in an environment where starting something new may be perceived as going backwards rather than what it actually represents, shifting to a new path.
Not all careers are created equal. My brother was able to start a successful career as a high school math teacher at the age of 35. However, there are also careers where youth is considered more strictly than others. The big management consulting firms like to hire young consultants and are rarely willing to bring in a 35 year old junior consultant without impossible to find expertise or some other consulting experience. Banking can be like that as well. The issue is actually less about the potential of our kids to deliver value to the company but rather existing stereotypes and outdated attitudes about age that still persist in many companies.
“It’s never too late to become who you want to be. I hope you live a life that you’re proud of, and if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start over.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald
As a parent, I hope that I will be able to instill in my kids the drive and willingness to go after the career they discover and crave no matter when they figure it out. Sure, it may be harder to make it happen when they are 30 instead of when they are 22 but it is amazing what motivation and passion can do. Do you think a 22 year old starting and staying in a career they took for lack of any other idea will have a more satisfying life than the 30 year old who quits to start over doing something she loves?