Today’s teens will spend at least 16 years and almost 20,000 hours in classrooms before heading out into the real world. So, how can a parent be sure that this lengthy journey provides their teens with the necessary tools needed to succeed?
The question is fair, and deserves serious consideration. Education alone probably isn’t the answer. But the addition of summer jobs, community service work, educational programs, and even internships can help fill in the gaps. Each of these experiences will teach teens the vital 21st Century skills necessary to prepare and succeed in work.
So, what are these skills?
Teens must develop the ability to talk to people from all walks of life. “Don’t talk to strangers” makes great sense until age 11 or 12. After that, the ability to hold a conversation is vital. Questioning skills and listening skills are both critical to this process, which need not be complicated. Whether personally or professionally, teens should be reminded to ask simple questions; listen to answers and incorporate them into their next questions; and focus questions on jobs, families, and hobbies. A teen that is “interesting” is great. A teen that is “interested” is even better.
Future teen employees will need to master the skills of meeting and effectively communicating with a lot of people, getting to know those people, and then staying in touch with those people—maybe even hundreds of new contacts. In actuality, teens are all quite familiar with the concept of “keeping in touch” with a large community of people via social networking, so the transition to a professional application should be fairly smooth. Keep in mind however, that teens must be reminded that all of the technology in the world will not change the age old premise that “people make people successful.” Who you know will always be just as important as what you know.
In a practical sense, the ability to get along with others will benefit teens in all aspects of their lives—at home, in the classroom, and in the workplace. However, statistics show that people skills in the workplace are often the toughest to master. A whopping 70% of people who quit or lose their jobs do so because they can’t get along with their bosses or coworkers. This is clearly one skill that is best not learned “on the job.” Success will depend on a teen’s ability to compromise and to resolve conflict—coupled with understanding the dangers of burning bridges along the way.
Three-year-olds from diverse backgrounds play together peacefully on playgrounds across America. They do so because they have yet to embrace the poison of intolerance. Socially, intolerance is distasteful, but professionally intolerance can be fatal. Employees don’t have the luxury of choosing their coworkers, their bosses, and/or their customers. Teens who expect to survive and succeed in the global economy today absolutely need to learn how to live with, work with, and socialize with people from all walks of life. So, how can you as a parent help? Intolerance—a learned behavior— can be unlearned with the help of parents who recognize the dangers of this behavior and the future challenges that it presents.
There is no magic wand when it comes to helping teens always make the right choices, but they can be reminded to weigh data, think about risk, and consider the consequences of their choices. The key is for teens to develop processes and strategies that enable them to sharpen their foresight. “If I only knew then what I know now,” a comment often heard, reminds us that hindsight is always 20/20. Teens must understand that there is a dangerous correlation between making minor bad choices now and making major bad choices later. It is also critical for them to realize that just one destructive decision can easily destroy the best laid plans and highest hopes. Conversely, making positive “right” decisions can help them achieve their life-long dreams.
Organizational and time utilization skills are two of the most vital common denominators of highly successful people. The ability to multi-task is paramount to a successful educational, as well as workplace experience. Simply put, teens who cannot effectively manage their time and organize their daily schedules are certain to struggle. Every teen must have a system. Whether that system is implemented with an electronic gadget or an old fashioned manual process is irrelevant. If the system works, then it is the right system. Hint: the ability to say “no” can go a long way in the game of time management!
In today’s world of entrepreneurial businesses and start-up companies, the vast majority of today’s teens will not work for large corporations. Smaller companies will employ most—and the preparation is quite different from the preparation for a job in generations past. These companies typically do not have the time or resources to train basic workplace skills or teach the newly employed about the particular industry landscape. Employees who take initiative, deal with challenges, overcome obstacles, and solve problems starting in their teen years will have a distinct advantage over the rest. Business literacy is probably the difference between failure and success. There is ample time for teens to master the 21st Century skills vital to workplace and life achievement if they start now. They must get involved, communicate, network, organize, make calculated decisions, appreciate others, and learn business.
12 Tips for Teens Preparing for the Real World
1. Find your passion and follow it.
2. Ask a million questions.
3. Read everything you can.
4. Meet all kinds of people.
5. Fill your address book.
6. Stay in touch with everyone.
7. Always do the right thing.
8. Volunteer for community service.
9. Discover your natural talents.
10. Try a few jobs before and during college.
11. Pursue your dreams.
12. Remember: Mastery of vital 21st Century skills leads to success.