What will the world of work look like for our kids?

This is a question I have become super excited about.  The financial crisis really hit while my kids were still in nappies and so I could barely stay awake long enough to realise other things were going on in the world, never mind pay attention to them.  But as it stretched on and youth unemployment became big news, it began to filter into my addled consciousness.  In a moment of fear that came along with the realisation that the responsibility for these two small people really was primarily mine and my husband’s, no one else’s, I blurted out to my husband, “What if this goes on and on and there are no jobs for our kids?!”

Having worked in research about children and families, I knew the long lasting affects unemployment has had on young people who experienced it during the Thatcher era.  Not only did it increase the chances of them being unemployed and earn less later in life, it also had negative effects on their life satisfaction, physical and mental health and job satisfaction, more than two decades later.

This scared the hell out of me, hence my question to my poor, ever-patient husband who told me not to worry.  If this happened, he’d give up his job and start his own joinery business with the kids as his apprentices.  Weirdly, this made me feel better instantly.  The idea of setting up my own business was something as alien to me as Nutella on boiled eggs but I found the idea of taking your livelihood into your own hands very appealing, if a bit scary and out of reach.  Since then, I’ve been trying to find a way to help my kids see this as a viable option for their future.

And so, in true researcher form, I did some research… This is just a flavour of the initial results but a few messages were clear.

There is a growing body of writing that suggests that the financial crisis has affected social change as well as the obvious impacts such as people losing their jobs or not being able to put their life onto their credit cards any longer.  Authors such as John Williams, James Altucher and Markus Albers propose that our trust in big institutes like the banking sector (and I’d add the BBC following a number of high profile sex abuse cases) has been severely rocked to the point that it’s unlikely to be restored to the same extent again.  What were once secure, permanent jobs are now under threat (even those in the public sector) and so, the authors claim, this is the prime time to take your future into your own hands and start a business.  And it’s not as crazy as it might sound.  Some of today’s biggest brands – like Walt Disney Productions, IBM, Microsoft and Apple – were started during periods of recession.

Relating this back to what the future of work might look like for our kids, it’s impossible at this stage to even dream about what these future businesses or jobs might look like.  Research by Karl Fisch, captured within this video, suggests that the ten most sought-after jobs of 2010 didn’t even exist in 2004.  I’d recommend watching it when you’re fully awake (rather than late at night like I did) as it has some big, amazing numbers in it.  We do indeed live in exponential times.  Our jobs as parents therefore can’t be to work out what this all means so we can figure it out for our kids.  We have to equip them with the skills to figure it out for themselves, and also to see the opportunities, not the scariness, of it all.

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2 thoughts on “What will the world of work look like for our kids?

  1. Very very interesting piece actually, especially in relation to your efforts to be super positive and encourage your kids to aim for the stars! I think the best thing we can for our children is to equip them with the skills they will need to be entrepreneurs. I don’t mean that we should train them to behave like Alan Sugar, or to crave power or some other perception of what it takes to make it in business. But I do mean that we should encourage them to be positive, confident, determined, imaginative, creative, and not feel that their lives are bound by the way everyone else does things (or more precisely, by the way they perceive that everyone else does things). We also need to get over the idea that if you are an entrepreneur, you’ve only really made it when you make as much money as Richard Branson. Above all, though, a child who believes in herself is far more likely to be an adult who believes in herself, and adults who believe in themselves are far more likely to do well at whatever, entrepreneur or otherwise. 🙂

    • Thanks Liz! I totally agree. I’ve been reading a lot about the future of work lately and feel that there is something about how entrepreneurs approach life that is really useful for whatever kind of work you want to do – even if that is to work for someone else. A positive attitude, flexible approach and identifying problems people don’t even know exist are attributes that would help us all be more successful. I’m also trying to help my kids see that being a success is not determined by how much money you have in your bank account or how much “stuff” you have, but by how you feel about your self and what you achieve. I often wonder if Alan Sugar is really happy. I think that Richard Branson probably is however 🙂

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