Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Stop saying no... sometimes

 How much of what we stress about with our kids could be resolved by eliminating this two-letter word from our vocabulary? If I look back over the last 20 years of parenthood, the most stressful moments inevitably revolved around me telling one or both of my children to do something or alternatively to stop doing something. I am sure that my efforts were both effective and necessary in some cases. "Don't cross the road without looking both ways and waiting for the light." for example is something I did not want to leave for my kids to figure out through trial and error. But, along with the obvious life-saving restrictions were many MANY situations that were not clearly necessary. Did I need to tell my son to walk on the sidewalk instead of dancing along the edge and climbing on the low wall next to it? Was it soooo terrible that my daughter wanted to play in the sandbox even though it was soaking wet from the rain earlier that day?

My fear is that the denials and restrictions are affecting their personalities in ways that could have a negative impact on their futures. Attributes like creativity, confidence, curiosity might all be curtailed. If a child is told to stop every time they think of something new to do or try they will very quickly come to mistrust their own instincts. Acts that arise from creativity or curiosity and are promptly halted or worse, punished would no longer be viewed as "bad". Martin Seligman in his experiments in the '60s showed that dogs who were shocked right after a bell was rung started to react to the bell as though it were the shock itself. Repeated conditioning in this way will result in our kids being hesitant, self-doubting and passive.

Back when I was in high school, the HeadhunterDad's Mom was studying for her Masters in English Literature, and for one of her assignments, she was reading a book titled Last and First Men. She told me about how it followed the evolution of mankind from our current civilization to the distant future, more than two billion years from now. I tried reading it back then but could not get through it. I picked it up again a few years ago and was able to finish it. I remember one iteration of the evolution clearly and while horrifying, it also held a strange appeal that I grew to appreciate more having had teenagers of my own. In this version of humanity (some million (billion) years from now) the youth, upon reaching puberty, were expelled from the towns and cities where the children and adults lived. Lifespans were much longer by that time and adolescence could take decades to get through. During that tumultuous time, the crazed teens lived a violent and decadent life of excess. They formed tribes, mated randomly, waged war, and generally ran amok. With no parents or other authority figures present they could let loose all their hormonal-driven urges. Those who survived, eventually returned to the cities with a calm and maturity having outgrown the wild years and I guess, "got it all out of their system."

This may sound eminently reasonable from a societal perspective but I am sure the parents of the teens who do not come back from the wilds would disagree. So, we probably won't be seeing this Lord of the Flies scenario played out anytime soon but perhaps the idea is correct for a younger age group? Ones who are not quite big enough to hurt others with their experiments. Perhaps we can allow our toddlers and elementary school-age kids to live a bit freer than we are currently permitting. Let them experiment, explore their world, and learn to trust their own decisions. 

The HeadhunterDad, AKA Lawrence Kieffer, is a professor of career studies at Temple University, Japan campus, the COO for Fidel Consulting an APAC Recruiting and Staffing firm focused on IT professionals, a devoted husband, and father of two amazing kids. Follow on TwitterLinkedin or Facebook.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Do what you love, better than anyone else, and the money will follow

The saying “Do what you love, the money will follow” (Marsha Sinetar) would be more accurate if it instead stated, “Do what you love, better than anyone else and the money will follow”. There are many artists living hand to mouth and only one Picasso. Economics (and common sense) explains that prices or salaries will rise when demand increases. Demand, for our purposes, of certain skills or abilities will always be linked to supply. If there are many candidates available in the market for a particular job (supply) and the number of open positions (demand) is low then the employer can offer a lower salary as they have several candidates to choose from. When there are fewer candidates than there are jobs, the salary will rise. 

In brand and corporate strategy, there is another aspect that comes into play with supply and demand, barriers to entry. This term first coined by Bain and later brought to the mainstream by Porter refers to the difficulty face by new entrants/competitors to the market. As in corporate competition, the same applies in individual competition for jobs. The easier the job (or in some cases the easier the job is perceived to be by management) the more candidates will be considered suitable therefore a large supply and low salary.

USA Today printed a list of the 25 lowest paying jobs in the US. Careers in agriculture, baking (US$28K), beauticians, food service fill out the bottom of the list. However, also on the list are jobs like nursing (US$26K) which seems to me to be a bit unfair. Especially these days when nursing staff and health care professionals have been standing between us and the COVID virus. Of course, not all beauticians are created equal. The average beautician may only earn a relatively small salary because the overall supply of average beauticians is large. But the supply of "excellent" beauticians is decidedly smaller. Less supply = higher demand = higher price/salary.

There is value in all work but as we can see, there is not always a lot of money to be made if the role your son or daughter is interested in is one that is historically low paying. Do we tell our son that he should give up his dream of being a social worker and focus on becoming an architect (US$115K) or a dentist (US$97K)? I often tell my students that they will be working for a minimum of 40 years, 5 days a week, 8 hours a day so why choose something that doesn't excite you? The short answer? Our kids should not compromise if they do not have to. There are going to be many choices in their future and many times when they will have to choose the less desirable option due to family, money, life! Why force it so early in their career when there is still room to make mistakes?

I assume that most of you agree with me and want our kids to follow their dreams and pursue the careers that are most interesting for them. But, like me, I also assume that you want your kids to live a comfortable financial life as well. How can you have both when your daughter or son wants to be a baker?

This brings us back to the discussion of supply and demand and a simple solution. If the market salary for an average baker is too low then we need to prepare our kids to be above average. We owe it to our children to share the realities of life with them and prepare them to make an "educated" decision. We need to do more than just encourage them to follow their dreams and passions but also show them what is required in order for them to be successful in that career.  Joël Robuchon, who started as a pastry chef, was estimated to be worth about US$16,000,000 at the time of his death in 2018. He invested the time and effort to build his career and grow. He did not stop at the first restaurant he worked for but continued to learn and push himself. This is the attitude that will set your child apart from the median.

Talk with your kids, encourage them to follow their dreams and to go for the career that excites them but also share what you know (and what you can discover) about the challenges they will face and the hardships they will need to overcome. Don't settle for average.

The HeadhunterDad, AKA Lawrence Kieffer, is a professor of career studies at Temple University, Japan campus, the COO for Fidel Consulting an APAC Recruiting and Staffing firm focused on IT professionals, a devoted husband, and father of two amazing kids. Follow on TwitterLinkedin or Facebook.