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Getting Ready for the Future - Today

By Russ Beck
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #26, 1998.

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Russ Beck

Telecommuting, flextime, downsizing, contingent workers, outsourcing, and freelancing: many of these words didn't even exist a decade ago. Today, they define the future of work. The traditional model of a corporation that hires, trains, and promotes employees in exchange for company loyalty is fast disappearing. With the ever-changing dynamics of the workplace, workers in the next century will no longer think in terms of finding a job and staying with that job for most of their career. According to Richard Knowdell, president of Career Research and Testing, "The employer's commitment to workers is now temporary, lasting as long as there is work to be done. Employers value the worker's skills, but when the job is done, workers have to move on."

These changes will affect the way students prepare for a career. You will need to implement a career strategy in which you take total responsibility for your career planning. Now is not too early to begin thinking of yourself as "Me Inc," a mini company that offers solutions to employers who are looking to solve problems and create efficient, productive ways to run their business.

While experience and education are still essential, specialized skills and knowledge will be what counts when employers consider your job application. Specialists are becoming more important than generalists. Individuals with specific professional or technical skills that can be applied to specific job tasks will be in demand.

The new worker will also have to be flexible and open to new opportunities. Workers with portable skills who can adapt and apply those skills to new work environments will prosper. Education will no longer end with a high-school diploma or college degree. On the other hand, many well-paying and rewarding careers will not require a four-year degree. Lifelong learning and retraining will become necessary because of the rapid pace of new technology and the dynamic nature of the workplace. You will need to continually update and advance your skills.

Of increasing importance to employers are the "soft" or personal skills. The technical or professional skills a job applicant possesses are essential, but the applicant who has solid personal skills will have the edge in getting the job. The chart below from the National Association of Colleges and Employers clearly shows the importance of these skills. Employers are looking for people who can work together, communicate well, and apply their skills effectively.

Self-awareness, career exploration, and career preparation form a three-step process that is very useful in organizing a career strategy. This kind of sequential approach will help you make the very best decisions you can about your future.

The first step in this process, self-awareness, requires you to examine your individual strengths, personal likes and dislikes, values, and aptitudes, in order to develop a customized career plan. The second step is to explore the career options that fit the personal profile. Many electronic and print resources explore particular careers or career fields. The third step is to begin the selection process by zeroing in on a particular career or careers and identifying what skills and what kind of education or training it requires.

The role of the parent is crucial in a child's career planning process. Luther Otto, a nationally recognized authority on child and career development says, "To ignore the role of the parents in the career development process is to deny what 50 years of studies in child and youth development have taught us . . . teachers and counselors cannot replace the primary influence parents have on their children's career plans."

In future articles I will provide some practical suggestions for adding career education to your home curriculum.

Helpful Resources

  • Career Coaching Your Kids: Guiding Your Child Through the Process of Career Discovery. Montross, Kane, Ginn. Davies-Black Publishing, 3803 East Bayshore Road, Palo Alto, CA 94303, (800) 624-1765. $16.95.

  • Career Skills Library. 8 volumes. Holli Cosgrove, ed., Ferguson Publishing, 200 West Madison Street, Chicago, IL 60606, (800) 306-9941. $13.95 each, $99.95 set of eight.

  • Helping Your Child Choose a Career. Luther B. Otto. Jist Works Inc., 720 North Park Avenue, Indianapolis, IN 46202, (800) 648-5478. $14.95.

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