How to give young people career advice that theyll actually listen to

After you retire, youre ideally suited to dish out career advice to young people. But theres a right and wrong way to do that.

Some grandparents love to regale their grandkids about their working lives, emphasizing the role of luck, pluck and hard work. But whether youngsters listen is another story.

You have to go where the child is, said Nancy Schlossberg, 88, author of Too Young To Be Old. If theyre interested in something, do your homework and expose them to their interest. Start with where they are developmentally and find options for them.

Read: This 88-year-old has some advice about staying young and happy

For example, Sarasota, Fla.-based Schlossberg knew that her 14-year-old granddaughter enjoyed digital art. So she contacted a local schoolRingling College of Art & Designand arranged a two-hour tour.

After learning about the colleges computer animation program, they launched into a lively discussion about pursuing your passion. Better yet, the tour guide befriended the teen and offered to help her develop a portfolio of her artwork.

You should have no vested interest in what your grandchild does, added Schlossberg, a former counseling psychologist at the University of Maryland. Youre there as a guide and career coach.

If youre particularly excited by a young persons career aspirations, its tempting to double as a cheerleader and egg them on. But dont overdo it.

While Schlossberg is happy that the Ringling visit proved a hit, she doesnt keep bringing it up with her granddaughter.

Rather than give advice, retirees can positively influence young people by summarizing pivotal moments that shaped their career path. Noting how fate can exert a lasting impactor how openness to new experiences can beget once-in-a-lifetime opportunitiesenables older folks to drive home valuable lessons for tomorrows leaders.

A lot of our careers were unplanned, Schlossberg said. I call it planned happenstance. Thats why we should encourage our grandchildren to get as much experience as possible, to try new things.

Of course, theres nothing wrong with sharing your professional expertise when framing your career advice. Just keep it brief, instructive and relevant.

In his new book Life 3.0, Max Tegmark writes that he encourages his kids to consider professions that machines are currently bad at, and therefore seem unlikely to get automated in the near future.

A physics professor at MIT, Tegmark suggests questions to ask young people to help them identify a secure career for decades to come:

1. Does it require interacting with people and using social intelligence?

2. Does it involve creativity and coming up with clever solutions?

3. Does it require working in an unpredictable environment?

Posing thoughtful questionsand listening patiently to the answersprovides a blueprint to guide youngsters to ponder their career choices. Youre also more likely to engage them if you let them do most of the talking.

Many people dont think through what they want to say before they speak, said Donne Davis, founder of GaGa Sisterhood, a national social network of grandmothers. They shoot from the hip, or they base their advice on their own experience which is so outdated.

Davis, 70, often muses to her teenage granddaughter, I bet there are jobs out there we cant even imagine because of so much new technology. Then she stays silent and lets her granddaughter discuss her dreams, interests and talents.

Adopting a non-judgmental curiosity about various careersand how the ever-changing march of technology might affect those careerscan bring retirees closer to todays youth. They can confide in each other about their hopes and fears for the future.

Such two-way dialogues promote the best kind of career advice. Rather than spout lectures or reel off should statements (You should be a lawyer like your father, You should go into nursing to help all of us old people), you gain credibility by listening and dignifying what you hear.

Yet Davis does have one cardinal rule about advising young people: She cautions them not to rush to accept the first job offer that comes along.

Its better to know what you seek going in and whether your values and goals align with the job, she said. You want to make sure the companys core values align with your own.

Morey Stettner i s a writer in Portsmouth, N.H. Hes the author of five business books, including Skills for New Managers, published by McGraw Hill.

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