When was the last time you had a boring day at work? Did you do the boring tasks, or ignore them? Of course you did them, because it’s all part of the job. Even the most exciting job requires mundane and sometimes mind-numbing tasks. This is a message that our kids must hear long before their first job. Here’s my take. Be sure to read until the end where I share my frustrations at a previous job as a recruiter (and believe it or not, an IT recruiter!). (And take a look at the article that inspired mine, “Tedium, kids? It’s all in a day’s work.”)
Every child has said, “This is boring.” Wait until they show up for work! It’s not all creativity, fun and games. (If I had a nickel for every student who asked me to make activities ‘fun’, I’d be rolling in nickels.) Many are growing up with the expectation that all their activities will be challenging (in the most enjoyable of ways) and fulfilling. How do you prepare them for the real world? It’s inevitable that there will be boredom on the job and tedium in life.
We have been over-sending the message that our kids should follow their bliss and find their passion. Of course they should strive for fulfilling work, but finding it is not realistic right out of the gate. We are all paying a heavy price. Start with some numbers: 40-60% of college students take five to six years to graduate. One of the reasons is that they change majors frequently, hesitating to commit. Some come to the business world with a poor work ethic. They can’t or won’t plow through the tedium that is a necessary part of work and life. Employers are tired of new hires who are bright, but wash out quickly. They are losing time, money and productivity with employees who decide after weeks or even days that they don’t like the job, stop showing up for work, and sometimes don’t give notice.
This preparation is part of the bigger picture of parenting: the molding and modeling of productive, can-do attitudes. It’s a conversation that should take place at a young age, and be repeated regularly. What are these productive attitudes?
1) I am part of a family and we all contribute, whether we like the task or not. 2) I can do this. 3) If it needs to be done, let’s get it done. 4) It may not be fun, but it’s important. 5) Always keep the end in mind.
It begins in the early years. It could be talking about your own job (I loved the mom who talked to her kids about the difficulty of meeting a sales quota), or bringing it down to the level of cooperation in a family. Nobody likes to clean toilets, but it has to be done. The same for doing laundry, taking out the recycling, and cleaning up after the dog. They all contribute to the well-being of the family, just as the tedious jobs contribute to the success of a business. Besides, when the chores are done, that opens up the opportunity for everyone to have some fun.
Once they become accustomed to doing what needs to be done, they will be better prepared for the work world. Employers will be grateful to have them, too.
I talk a lot about sharing your story with your kids. That includes the challenges of work. Of course, you’ll tell them about your on-the-job successes. I encourage you to share the difficult situations, too. I’ve worn many hats over the years: teacher, recruiter, office manager, secretary. My kids heard about a lot of my experiences. Recruiting especially challenged everything about me, was unpredictable and full of disappointments – the endless cold calling and data entry, candidates who didn’t show up for interviews, placements that fell apart at the last minute… and then back to square one, every day there was square one… cold calling and data entry.
Recruiting was definitely not the right job for me, but it prepared me for other opportunities, and I learned a lot about my strengths and weaknesses. That’s an important point: each experience prepares you for the next step, hopefully one that takes you closer to using your talents in a satisfying way.
Our kids should dream and work towards something fulfilling to them; however, they have to support themselves and be productive while that evolves. It takes years for most of us to figure out what truly makes us happy. I discovered my unique potential in coaching at the age of 52. How about you? I hope your children find theirs sooner, rather than later. But when they don’t have their dream job right away, they still need to give their best to the job they have.
How do we prepare them for the not-so-thrilling side of work? If we are parenting well, they will get the message anyway, be effective and appreciated at work, and find the work they were meant to do.
Fern Weis is a Parent Coach and Family Recovery Life Coach. She works with parents of teens and young adults who are going through difficult situations, from the homework wars to addiction recovery, and all points in between. Fern helps parents release guilt, end enabling, and confidently prepare their children to thrive and be successful through life's challenges. FernWeis.com | 201-747-9642