Is it ever too early to start talking to kids about making a living doing what they love?

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My friend and mentor, Barbara Winter asked this question on Facebook, “How do you keep your curiosity alive?” My initial response was that curiosity is an innate trait rather than a skill that needs to be honed. However, Barbara replied that all two year olds are curious-we all are born with curiosity  but it is often discouraged. That makes sense to me. While in my family of origin, curiosity was valued and encouraged, I married into a more reserved family and my husband was embarrassed when I would ask too many questions, calling it “nosey”.

This conversation on FB reminded me of all the valuable human traits we are born with but taught to suppress in favor of politeness, safety or fitting the mold.

About a year ago, I read an article in a Canadian newspaper about a study done in Ottowa schools. As I recall, the conclusion was that career counseling should start as early as 6th grade. That may seem very young for a student to begin planning for a career but think about one of the first questions nearly every re-careering coach asks you. What kinds of things fascinated you when you were a child? What could you spend hours doing?

Since our earliest interests are key to our ideal livelihood, it sure seems reasonable that we’d begin exploring viable career options with kids in elementary school. The occupation a child aspires to at that age is based on passion, not paycheck and external expectations. So, exploring different careers at such an early age may just keep young people more focused on making a living doing something they love rather than what their parents, teachers or society deem an appropriate career for them.

Many schools do have a career day of some sort that involves parents coming to school and discussing what they do and students have the opportunity to shadow an adult at work for a day. When my son was in grade school, there were two commercial pilots and a pitcher for the Padres among the parents. When I suggested that either my husband or I go to talk about being entrepreneurs, our son said, “no one wants to grow up to be a business man.” I agree that if we went to school and talked about sales quotas, projections and balance sheets we’d have put the kids to sleep (and embarrassed our son). But talking about getting paid to do what you love and the benefits of self employment (like taking your dog to work or  taking your work and your kids on a  snorkeling vacation) would have peeked their interest in entrepreneurship.

In primary school, all the boys wanted to be firemen or policemen because they were heros. Why not show them examples of businesses that make a difference and improve lives; entrepreneurs who teach a whole village to make a living and bring schools,  clean drinking water and shoes to children their age? Almost daily I hear from middle aged adults who’ve spent decades in a career they were bored with, chosen because they were told they had an aptitude for it or because it was expected of them. They are looking for something that has more meaning, that they enjoy. What would happen if we didn’t have to go back and reconnect with the passions of our youth because we were encouraged in grade school to start thinking about doing something we love for a living instead?

Do you remember what you loved to do as a child? Were you encouraged to think about doing that for a living? What kinds of messages did parents, teachers and advisors give you about career choices? Were they based on your passions or your aptitude and societies expectations? As always, you are invited to share your thoughts with our readers below.

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