We Could All Learn from Take Our Daughters & Sons to Work Day

Thursday, April 27, 2017 marks the 24th anniversary of Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.  Over 39 million people in the United States participated in the program in 2016.   This national program encourages workers to not only take their own children to work, but also reach out to take relatives and displaced children to work for the day.   The suggested age range for participating in the day is between 8 and 18.

young-entrepreneursOftentimes, we ask children “what do you want to be when you grow up?”  The youngest children will typically answer teacher, doctor, fire fighter or lawyer.

But, do they really know what choosing a career really means?  Would the answer change if we asked the right questions?  How would we shape their thoughts around education and career if we exposed them to a different workplace each year starting as young as third grade?

Instead of asking broad questions that elicit general answers, parents should try asking specific questions that will enable them to ascertain their children’s interests.  This will help parents plan activities for their children on Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day and beyond.

Ask the Right Questions

When we ask them what they want to be when they grow up, let’s be honest, we are really asking them what they can see themselves doing across the span of a 40 year career.  Sounds overwhelming, doesn’t it?  It doesn’t have to be.

Ask these kinds of questions instead:

  1. Gauge Interest – What are your favorite things to do?
  2. Narrow Down- Out of all of those favorite things to do, which things do you think you’d have fun doing every day?
  3. Pique Interest Have you ever heard of a (insert nontraditional career choice here)?  Do you know what they do all day?  Do you think it’d be cool to (insert cool thing that a person with nontraditional career choice does here).
  4. Probe- What do you think an orthodontist does all day?  Do you think he/she does anything besides putting on braces?
  5. Introduce– Have you ever heard of a civil, industrial or aerospace engineer?  Let’s do some research together so we can both learn a little about what people in each of those fields do at work.

Now that we’ve asked the right questions, what shall we do with this information?  Plan trips and activities that will expose children to further explore their current career interests with the understand that anything and everything is subject to change with the young mind.  What they want to be today, will be a thing of the past tomorrow.  So, remember to explore career possibilities with an open mind.  Bring your child to your job to “shadow” you and meet your colleagues one year and arrange for them to go to work with their favorite Aunt or Uncle next year.

Try these activities to make the most out of Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day:

  1. Have the child make a brief list of things they would like to learn while “at work” for the day and use the list as a guide to plan activities.  Tip:  Many teachers will ask students to write an essay about their day, so this will give them a head start.
  2. Make sure the child meets professionals from varying fields and positions throughout the day.  Tip: It is as important to expose them to entry-level positions as it is to introduce them to the CEO.
  3. Teach them how to shake hands, make eye contact and introduce themselves to everyone they meet.  Tip: Teaching self-confidence and the lesson that the Janitor, Clerk and Senior Partner are equally important and deserving of respect.  
  4. Debrief on the ride home.  Let them express what they enjoyed and what they didn’t.  Tip: The conversation will prove to be a great source of information for planning for future career centered activities.

I studied Psychology in both undergraduate and graduate schools.  If I only expose my daughters to my educational path, then they likely will not consider being an engineer, architect, accountant, chemist, etc.  However, my career as an entrepreneur has afforded me the opportunity to know people across many career paths.  Many of my friends and family have also chosen careers that differ from my expertise in education, psychology or business.  It would be a waste of useful resources if I didn’t expose my children to my network of talented employees and employers.

I encourage you to do the same on not only Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, but as often as possible.  The more they are exposed to a variation of options, the more likely they are to thoughtfully choose an educational and career path that aligns with their own strengths and interests.  Wouldn’t we all love our jobs if we began thinking about it and planning for it as early as eight years old?

Happy Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day!

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