For exploring future opportunities, the time is now
“Peter’s building a mentorship program in Ben’s class this year,” I announced to my husband at dinner.”What? No fair! They get to build a ship out of Mentos?! Awesome!” my other kids shouted.
“Mentors. Not Mentos.”Each student is to find something they are passionate about, then locate an adult who can show them the ropes and, hopefully, further inspire them in their dream. Ben has decided he wants to be a chef. So I guess, technically, it could be a Mento-ship if he learns how to make sugar-coated candies. But I digress.This year – this day … this minute actually – Ben wants to be a chef. But at any given moment in the past few months he’s also wanted to play in the NFL, be a national cartoonist and/or teach kindergarten. He also loves to sing, act, write short stories, and he plays a mean piano. So, as it is with most kids his age, the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” becomes tricky. For years adults answered that question – What do you want to be? – with everything from apprehension, to pride, to certainty, to more than a little doubt. But eventually we stopped answering the question and simply started “being.” And we pretty much did that without changing until we got the coveted gold watch on our way into retirement. Adults approaching retirement today will have had an average of three jobs over the course of their working life.Today’s students will have 10-14 jobs by age 38. Take that.
Actually, analysts estimate that the top 10 jobs in the year 2010 didn’t even exist in 2004. Which means we are currently preparing students for jobs that have not yet been invented.I don’t know about you, but that changes the way I think about my kids’ future. If we don’t even know what we are training them for, how can we possibly begin to know what will appeal to them in a future job market? Still, we may not be able to know what interests them, but we can teach them to be interested. We can help them find things they love or even think they might love, and instill a passion for learning. We can teach them to be curious and observant and creative and entrepreneurial. We can train them to ask questions and to seek advice. And as our wise sixth-grade teacher already knows, we can encourage them to find mentors.And if in sixth grade they learn to be a chef, for example, who’s to say in eighth grade they couldn’t find a mentor and learn to be a pilot? Or in ninth grade, learn to illustrate or to be an organic farmer or a computer programmer or architect?
In fact, who’s to say we can’t reinvent ourselves at any age?Maybe we’ll only have three jobs in our lifetime, or maybe we’ll have 20, but our interests and talents go way beyond the workplace. Our occupations rarely define us.So why not learn to be a potter, or a photographer or a landscaper right now? If the statistics hold true, there’s never been a better time to reinvent ourselves. Heck, even build a Mento-ship if it floats your boat. Charla Belinski writes about parenting and family life and her columns appear regularly in the Post Independent. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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