Many people have heard the mantra: “follow your passions.” Aside from being completely wrong as career advice, it leaves out how to even cultivate a passion that lends itself to what the world needs. This article goes into mor depth than the one published in Shanghai Daily.
Start with reviewing the VIA character results of your teen. Even better take your own so you can better understand it. It is free. You can get a foundational understanding in this movie:
Research shows that people who use their signature strengths regularly are less stressed, more fufilled, happier, more energized, report higher levels of well-being etc.
As you examine your teen’s interests, skills, passions etc, always come back to which character strengths is this feeding. Ken Robbinson calls this your element:
His two books are well worth the read. You can learn more in this much more in-depth video. Another way of thinking about finding your element is asking what is your purpose. Conceptually, helping your teen find their purpose looks like this:
The world needs it
What does the world need? According to Fortune, here is the list of jobs with the greatest outlook in 2015.
1. Registered Nurses 2. Truck Drivers 3. Customer Service Representatives 4. Sales managers 5. Sales Representatives 6. First- line supervisors or managers of retail sales workers 7. Software quality assurance engineers and testers 8. General and operations manager 9. Managers (all other) 10. Accountants and auditors –
Forbes has a list of jobs requiring college degrees The problem of course is what if you do not like any of these jobs? You could look where the jobs are
Oddly you can check a different source and come up with a different list.
You are paid for it
If you got to work, you may as well get paid for it. So which jobs pay the best? Payscale has an answer that a lot of literature majors are not going to like. Of the top 30, 28 are STEM degrees with a heavy emphasis on Engineering.
You are good at it
The theory goes that if you are good at it, it must come easy to you and you must enjoy it. While this idea does not hold up under scrutinity (many people are good at stuff they work hard at and you can be good at thing you do not enjoy), it does suggest the idea of getting good at stuff. And some stuff is actually wanted by employers. According to National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), employers desperately want college gradautes to
1. Ability to work in a team structure
2. Ability to make decisions and solve problems (tie)
3. Ability to communicate verbally with people inside and outside an organization
4. Ability to plan, organize and prioritize work
5. Ability to obtain and process information
6. Ability to analyze quantitative data
7. Technical knowledge related to the job
8. Proficiency with computer software programs
9. Ability to create and/or edit written reports
10. Ability to sell and influence others
You can start helping your teen developing these transferable skills through school work and particpation in clubs, activities and itnernships. Binghamton has a worksheet to self evaluate which skills you are developing.
While you can focus on developing these skills, these skills show up in the most unqiue places, often unexpectedly. Rita J. King advocated the value of serendipity in career development:
This suggests pushing your kids for unique exeriences.
“You need to be exposed to many things. You should expose yourself even though you might not know if you’ll be interested.” Linda Caldwell
You love to do it
Steve Jobs’s famous commencement speech offered the following advice:
I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.
A lot of people took this to mean “follow your passion!” Only that is not what Steve meant. He talked about finding what you love. Moreover he ends with this:
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
Passion is wonderfully energizing, but also complicated as Robert Vallerand explains:
“Passion comes from a special fit between an activity and a person. You can’t force that fit; it has to be found.” Geneviève Mageau, psychology professor at the University of Montreal.
Peter Benson, president of the Search Institute provides a path for parents to follow in coaching their children in the book Sparks:
In addition, I suggest you need to help your kids adopt and use a growth mindset:
With summer on the horizon, there is a great opportunity to explore new horizons:
- Teen Ink has an excellent searchable database.
- I have curated a list of great programs at International Counselor
For parents of introverts, I strongly recommend reading Susain Cain’s great book Quiet:
Possibly the best book I have seen for teens is Cal Newport’s “how to be a high school superstar.”
Cal Newport offers great advice on his blog, Studyhacks. You can get a flavour of his insights at his talk at Google in which he makes the case to cultivate your passion. As Cal Newport states, “Passion comes after you put in the hard work to become excellent at something valuable, not before. In other words, what you do for a living is much less important than how you do it.”
As your teen explores their world, feeding their strengths and fanning the sparks of what may become a great passion, one that has transferable skills or gives them insight to their purpose on the planet, help them develop an attitude of gratitude. Martin Seligman offersa very simply, but powerful activity:
“It takes courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are.”
e. e. cummings
Books recommended (kindle format)