What to teach kids so they can earn a living

Today the vast majority of knowledge workers are using LinkedIn to manage their career, so, as a career counselor, it’s my job to keep track of what’s going on over there.

Recently, LinkedIn published a list of the ten most common words people use on their profiles. These words show what people value in themselves and other people.

1. Creative

2. Organizational

3. Effective

4. Extensive experience

5. Track record

6. Motivated

7. Innovative

8. Problem solving

9. Communication skills

10. Dynamic

What strikes me about this list is the deep focus on execution. Today, knowledge and industry expertise are relatively easy to get from the Internet. But you can’t use the Internet to execute. That’s still all on us.

Execution is about ambition and drive and the ability to bounce back.

So, if the big differentiator right now in the workplace is the ability to execute, how do you teach kids to focus on that?

School does a really good job of that. You get an assignment, you get it done. You get a stack of stuff to learn, you learn it. But in the workplace if you need someone to constantly tell you what you should execute then your options are limited to being entry-level or low-level management.

The best education, then, is teaching kids both to generate a plan and execute a plan. The people who can do both will have the highest feeling of self-worth at work. And it will show on their LinkedIn profile—or whatever post-Internet-age thing our kids end up using instead of a resume.

And, this seems like a good time to link to my son’s blog post, where he is selling his goat meat. It’s an example of execution that makes me smile.

8 replies
  1. Brian Brandes
    Brian Brandes says:

    Wow, does everyone in your family have a blog? Does everyone read each other’s blogs; and if so, does this supplant face to face conversation to a certain extent? I now know you, the farmer, and your son all have blogs now… are there dinner time conversations of “what did you post today?”

    Though, I might imagine your kids and farmer stay far away from your blog, not wanting to see themselves projected unto the world. It’s a bit intense, like looking into the abyss.

    • Brian Brandes
      Brian Brandes says:

      I (seriously) like how rather than answer my questions directly you answer them in the way you want to. It’s a very good (almost dare I say politician-like) strategy. You’re funny.

  2. karelys
    karelys says:

    I’m at work so I can’t write and read much of your blog but i glanced through his and it made me tear up a little. Specially beacuse there is a title that says he learned to do his laundry. even though this is about teaching kids I’m following this blog to teach myself. and it’s changing the way i work. someone writes my paycheck but i pretend i’m self employed so i stay motivated.

  3. Karen
    Karen says:

    I just had a glance through his blog and read with delight that he is grateful for both his DSi and his DSLite. Gave me a much needed chuckle today, so thanks.

  4. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    Your son has a great blog. One of the things I really like about it is he gets to the point. It’s short and sweet.

    “But in the workplace if you need someone to constantly tell you what you should execute then your options are limited to being entry-level or low-level management.”

    This is so true and I completely agree. It reminds me of when I worked a summer job during college. There was a crew of us that worked for the town highway department. We were all hard workers but one of the guys didn’t wait to be told what needed to be done next. He just figured it out by himself and started in on the next task. The town highway superintendent noticed and let us all know how much he appreciated not having to give this guy direction at every turn. It was a good lesson.

  5. Mark K
    Mark K says:

    One of the things I find fascinating about your writing is how often I find myself flipping back and forth between agreeing and disagreeing with you. In the same article. It’s invigorating and it makes me think you are making me look at the topic from a different angle.

    Example: looking at a statistical analysis of LinkedIn profiles for ideas on how to go about home schooling. My initial thought was, that is so crazy and wrong.

    And then I thought about why I had that reaction. I realized that I am entrepreneurial, so my values are entrepreneurial. To someone with my bias, your analysis of what seems to me “the most successful drones” would be a better guide for what to avoid. But seeing my bias all of a sudden makes me think about all the things one might want to do that might require competing in that job market.

    Following your train of thought, you make your way to the conclusion that ambition and drive and the ability to bounce back are critical. These are entrepreneurial values. I am nodding my head again.

    But I disagree that school cultivates these values. School does focus on execution – because it focuses on rewarding precise obedience. And does so at high expense.

    Next you say:

    “The best education, then, is teaching kids both to generate a plan and execute a plan. The people who can do both will have the highest feeling of self-worth at work.”

    Well, I’m basically with you. A kid who is learning these things is definitely getting some of the requirements of a great education.

    Finally, you reveal that your son has been blogging for over a year. It’s apparent from his blog that it is *his* blog, you’re letting him grow it at his pace, and express himself. This is more important than things like “is the about page filled in?” I’m sure he’ll get to that kind of thing in his own good time.

    This is a fantastic example of the best kind of homeschooling. Although there is no reason schooling parents couldn’t help their kids set up a blog.

    What a ride…that’s why I keep coming back to your blog.

  6. Marc Roston
    Marc Roston says:

    I like the first comment here! He’s right, it is a substitute for actually speaking to each other!

    I have to point out that this post runs contrary to P’s stance on graduate school. In my professional experience, one of the greatest indicators of individual’s execution abilities is completing a PhD. Admittedly, she is right that grad school may not have value on its own. However, the difference between the skills of an actual PhD versus someone who (oddly) titles his or herself “ABD” is astounding. It might as well say their life’s work is “Anything But Done”!

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