“What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s one of those ubiquitous questions you probably remember hearing all the time as a kid, from teachers, family members, and friends, and it embodies a way of thinking, which developed over the last century, that kids ought to be in control of their own employment destiny.
Gone, for the most part, are the days when a kid simply took over the family business. What that means is that, in order to get youth excited about a career in business, it needs to be accessible, exciting, open to new ideas and bolstered by the right kind of education.
How do you do all that? How do you allow youth to pursue their passions while opening the door for them to get excited about business and entrepreneurship?
Promote Mentorship Programs
Mentorship programs are perhaps the best way for youth to get excited about any career. In the entertainment industry, for instance, there is a burgeoning mentorship program that works with youth from underserved communities, and it has had a marked impact on creating a new generation of storytellers and technical wizards – you should check this out if you haven’t already.
It worked and continues to work because it is interactive and allows youth to experience what the job would actually feel like, in a real-world setting. Left to their imaginations, a business might appear boring, but mentorship can prove that there are many exciting prospects and challenges in a variety of roles.
Leave Room for Passion and Imagination
Business used to have a reputation for being a dusty, homogenous thing – you wore big boxy suits and sold whatever needed to be sold. But that has changed markedly in the first decades of the 21st Century.
If you are interested, for instance, in gaming (as so many youths are!) there are a thousand types of apps, companies, design firms, etc. that you could run or sell to. If you are into sports, you could run a sporting business. If you are interested in fashion, you could run a fashion business… You get the idea. Being in business doesn’t need to replace a passion; it can accommodate a passion.
Let Them Try (and Possibly Fail)
A part of getting youth interested in business, as mentioned above, is mentorship. And part of that mentorship needs to include handing over real responsibilities and decision making to your protégé. When someone feels like an active part of a job, rather than an outside observer, they become more attached, more invested.
They may fail. And if that’s the case you need to constructively explain where they went wrong and how it can be improved in the future. This is the “beta testing” (to use some tech parlance) all good business people go through when they start out and having a safe place to fail and learn can hasten the process and strengthen the learner.
A business might not be the first career a young person thinks about, but with the right mentorship, openness, and trust, it may be the most compelling one.