One of the Best Things You Can Do to Prepare Your Children for a Job

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Picture1I recently read an article by the TIME Magazine folks that echoes what I have been encouraging parents for quite some time.

They discuss findings that show why so many students upon college graduation are unable to obtain or hold down a job. The students have the diploma. They are likely skilled in their career choice. But they are missing a key component to success: Character.

Really? Is character so important? What if they have crazy computer skills and stellar grades? Won’t that be enough for a good job? It turns out that there is a critical component employers are looking for in employees that is often not taught on college campuses.

I was just as surprised about this realization several years ago. My children were in their early teens and pre-teen years. We had had an exceptionally difficult morning. The children were behaving sluggishly, they were bickering (yes, we are a normal family!), they were just giving me the bare minimum of the work required.

“Okay, honey. Can you write a sentence that includes a subject and a verb?”

(Writing sloppily) “John jumped.”

Well, can you expand on that? “John jumped high.”

Sigh…

I was frustrated, and I wanted to bring home to them the importance of doing everything to the best of their ability. Giving their all. Working hard.

So I pulled out the newspaper’s professional classified ads. Yes, as recently as ten years ago the newspaper was the best way to find available jobs. I gave each of them a highlighter and asked them to search the ads, looking for character traits that employers wanted in employees. Things like punctual, hard-working, energetic.

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After about twenty minutes of scouring their sections of the paper, we all stepped back to see what they found – and it was amazing! It turned out that nearly every ad included at least one character trait. Yet, more importantly, we noticed that those traits were mentioned in the ad BEFORE the skills were.

The ads read something like this, “Wanted. Hard-working, energetic computer programmer with problem-solving skills. Must have at least two years of programming in…etc.”

Why? Why is character so important in the workplace? Well, look at it from an employer’s point of view. Say you have two potential employees. The first is extremely skilled with all the abilities you need for the job, yet she was fired from her last job for poor performance and not showing up to work. The second potential employee is not up to speed on the skill set you need but has been proven to be exceptional in his character – shows up to work on time, works very hard, tries his best.

Which do you choose? Well, if you pick the one with poor character, it doesn’t matter how many skills she has, when or if she shows up for work she will not be working hard for you. She may try to cut corners and will not be productive.

But the other one will do his best to learn whatever you need him to do. Even though he is lacking in some skills, he will work hard to gain them.

It is easy to train an employee who wants to learn and will put his all into the job, but it is nearly impossible to train an employee in character.

That doesn’t stop companies from trying. There are hundreds of organizations that exist just to serve large Fortune 500 companies, giving seminars that stress the importance of character.

But character comes as a result of years of training and modeling. It is more of a heart change. It comes from day-by-day influence.

Something you are doing with your children right now.

So, yes, it is important to make sure you are covering all the academic bases in your child’s education. But remember that by building character in them, you are giving them the BEST chance to do well when they enter the workplace and the world!