Mom, what should I do when I finish school?

Yesterday, I read a post on social media from a Russian mother and it struck a cord.

“My son is 16 years old. Since last year we’ve been going through the same discussion over and over again:

- "Mom, what should I do after I finish school? What profession should I choose?

- Son, you can choose any profession. All doors are open to you and you can do whatever you like the most.

- Mom, this is an empty answer! What exactly? The movie industry attracts me a lot. I am mesmerised by the technical side of it: the work of a cameraman, sound, light …

- Well, you are a lucky man, you already know what you like.

- Mom, you don’t understand. Creative people don’t make good money.

I’ve heard this conversation many times over and over, in many countries and different languages. I even remember myself having exactly the same discussion with my mother when I was 16.

Just like their parents many years ago, children today feel confused and struggle to make decisions about their future. Frankly, we cannot blame them for it.

I’ve been working with senior executives of multinational companies and their teams who are also trying to see into the future, find the right directions for their companies and create innovative products and services.

The difference is that my clients have corporate coaches, advisers, resources and networks to help them build and implement their change strategies. Our children, however, are mostly left alone to figure it out themselves. In the best case scenario, they get an aptitude test and a career advice, which in most cases, even with the best intentions, don’t deliver a satisfying result.

What should I do after school? - this is an overwhelming decision to make for a young adult. It has many layers and shouldn’t be attempted with a simple “Yes-No” algorithm.

First and foremost, Who am I and what are my natural talents? - Simple but probably the most complex question to have, especially when you are 16.

Every single one of us is born with a mission and unique inner talents, which subconsciously we know very well.

For example: “I like the movie production” - says the boy in the opening dialogue. The eyes of my 15 year-old niece start shining brighter when we speak about history and civilisations.

At the age of 5 we know exactly who we are but by the time we turn 16, loaded with outdated systems and structures that society and the education system imposes on us, we either forget or dismiss this inner knowing altogether.

What should I do? - Decisions is the second toughest step, especially today, when the choice is unlimited and you can truly do whatever you want. Still, we continue making decisions based on what was relevant and prestigious in the past or is possible in the present.

I once heard a mother say: “My son wanted to be a political scientist but my husband said that it wasn’t even a real profession!” Such dialogues, I bet, happen in at least 80% families around the dinner table. We - adults are raised to think this way but if companies today can design new products and even new industries, children can create their own unique professions, which respond to the inner calling and successfully fill in the economic and creative gaps in our societies.

Innovating is hard alone, in front of an aptitude test but many innovative solutions have certainly been found in a circle of creative friends and even adults.

Making the right decision. - We have been taught that choice equals life sentence and you cannot make a mistake. Yet, if we don’t make wrong decisions and never burn our fingers, we will never be able to learn. Important is how we make mistakes, when we make them and for what purpose.

Children find themselves in situations when they have to make decisions on empty grounds - haven’t experienced much outside of the school walls. For a confident decision, however, you need to test it, taste what it's like in the outside world, see, if your idea really works and works for you.

Today, a father of two teenage daughters said to me: “as parents, we are willing to help our children but we are simply not equipped”.

We keep trying to help our children with advice but, in my view, the best we can do is to help them find their own answers. We can teach them how to be the designers of their own lives, how to find creative solutions and to think strategically.

I have experienced over and over how the principles, the process and the tools of design, strategy and creative decision-making helps companies make confident decisions about their futures, find interesting, unique and profitable solutions. We can use the same tools to help our children design their own lives and professional futures.


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