What professions are we preparing our kids to enter?

I was really surprised to read that since the 1960s, the professions that are deemed most prestigious remain unchanged. Medicine, military, public service, science/technology, journalism, clergy, law. Most lists, no matter how you define prestige, have these professions on the list. And if you change the modifier to admired professions, the list doesn’t change.

I was surprised because in the ’60s if you earned a law degree you were pretty much guaranteed a high-paying career. Whereas today law school graduates are so outraged by how terrible the job market is for lawyers that they are suing the law schools for fraud. And some of the most successful law practices are not what you’d expect, for example DWI lawyers.

I’m also surprised the list remains unchanged because the job market is so different now than at the end of the 20th century. For example, in the ’70s blue collar workers had really high unemployment. Today, plumbers, electricians, farmers, and other blue collar specialists are in high demand. And construction management is one of the fastest growing job markets.

Not that I could convince my kids to do something in high demand. After all, the boys grew up on a farm and there was no way I could have convinced them to stay there to become farmers. (In fact, at every turn my older son had ideas about how he should be managing process improvements rather than doing the work.)

And what about journalism being up there in the list? I had no idea. So, first of all, from now on when people ask me what I do, I’m saying I’m a journalist. But I had been saying I’m a blogger because, generally, bloggers have more influence and earn more money than journalists. I mean, really, if you want your kid who’s a great writer to get a prestigious career, they should work at an essay writing service. Because by the time your kid grows up no one will believe that normal people need to write academic papers. And the people who can write them will be a rare breed, all raking in billions of dollars in essay-writing services.

Maybe you are wondering why I am even looking at the list of prestigious jobs. It’s because most adults I coach say they think they should be doing more. They expected to do something important. I always ask: “What does that mean? Who do you know who is doing something important?”

The answer is always that society has an agreement about what is a prestigious job. And all of those jobs require that you have someone else taking care of your kids. I think we should probably make sure our kids know that when they tell us what they want to do when they grow up.

Maybe there should be a list of most prestigious jobs that require so little time that you can do them while being a primary caregiver. If I could write that list I would. But I can’t think of any job that we admire that also takes very little time to do. We don’t really admire people who spend very little time doing whatever they are doing.

Prestige — whatever that means — comes from commitment. And not the type of commitment that parents give to parenting. But you already knew that.

10 replies
  1. GenerationXpert
    GenerationXpert says:

    Interesting post. I have a new job where I work for an entertainment venue and therefore get to meet “famous” people, so I get a lot of “that’s so cool” when I tell people where I work. But I used to have the title of VP at my old job and now I’m called a manager. At first I thought that would bug me, because I was proud to have worked my way up to VP. But that job ended up sucking in the end – and a change in management structure made it very difficult to run my department. I caught my self telling my Gen Z coworker (yes, I work with Gen Z and it’s really awesome) that “titles are cheap.” And I meant it. You can give me any title you want, but now I am in a situation where I can really effect change. So what I’m getting to is that I think as you evolve in your career (and yes, get older – I’m going to be 48) you start to just get over it. I no longer feel like I’m not living up to my potential. I’m much better at just living in the moment.

  2. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    I deliberately didn’t intentionally prepare my kids for any profession.

    My blue-collar dad was so atom-smasher focused on his kids having white collar jobs that it sucked the life and fun out of my teen years. I didn’t want that for my kids so I probably went too far the other way and just wanted them to honor the way they are made (personality type) and build a life around it that is satisfying for them.

    So my older son is about to graduate with a BS in environmental science, and my younger son took after his old dad, to my deep surprise, and is studying computer science. This is the one I thought sure I’d end up sending to trade school to be an electrician or a plumber. My older son is INFP and the younger is INTJ (I think).

    • Bostonian
      Bostonian says:

      That was similar to my initial reaction. “Whaddya mean ‘we?'”

      I’m not preparing my kids for any particular profession. I know some people who seem to be (cough cough), but not me.

      I like the fact that my kids’ aspirations change from year to year. I think it’s a good sign.

      I remember when I was in college I called my mother, upset, because I could’t choose a major. She asked me “Is the problem you want to study too few things or too many things?” “Too many things.” “Then you’ll be all right. If you think you know now what you’re going to do for the rest of your life, you’re probably wrong anyway.”

      I think my mother hoped I’d go into academia, like she did. I got a PhD, but the prospects didn’t look good to me. I had another career before I even got the paper.

      I think the likelihood that when my kids are forty they’ll be working at a career that doesn’t even exist yet is high. How does one prepare for that? I think my kids should study many things, especially the things that most interest them at any given time, in order to prepare themselves for an unknown future. Something they turn away from for a time may come back in later.

      My wife and I have both had very crooked career paths, going through a number of different professions as well as jobs. It worked out well for us. It’s only fair to allow the same latitude to our kids, who after all will take after us.

  3. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    When people ask what you do, I would recommend writer or author or both. Neither journalist or reporter are deemed most prestigious by either link in the first paragraph. Also, the first link which was written by a data journalist starts off with “According to The Harris Poll, …” and yet he didn’t include a link to the poll. Lately, I’ve noticed a good share of articles I read by think tank fellows with doctorates include their expertise with writer or author or both.
    When I read – “In fact, at every turn my older son had ideas about how he should be managing process improvements rather than doing the work.” – I thought about my first job out of college. I interviewed with the company in my last semester of college with heads of various engineering departments. They then got together, reviewed candidates from various colleges, and decided where each would be the best fit. They decided I would work out well for them in R&D. Now the best part was my training – especially the first three weeks. It started from raw material preparation to various stages of processing to QC/testing. When I look back, I consider myself very fortunate for not only seeing and having hands-on experience but also having the opportunity to interact and get to know people all over the plant. Those experiences made it much easier throughout my employment there to improve our product and troubleshoot problems. So my bottom line recommendation to your son or anyone else for that matter is to do some of the work – at least to the extent that it’s well understood. It gives you a better appreciation for the process and the person doing the process.

  4. Dana
    Dana says:

    Maybe the answer is to change the society you live in. For example, look into immigrating to another country that provides better opportunities or a preferred quality of life. The notion is not aboard. Millions of people have come to this society for that very thing.

  5. Mike John
    Mike John says:

    Living in 2019 it’s very hard to predict which jobs are going to be popular and prestigious in 10 years or so and it’s all because of the development of technology at its rapid pace. Law professions are still popular these days and I guess are going to be so in the years to come. Since it’s very difficul to say which jobs are going to be popular in the near future I would teach my kids such skill as: being creative, being able to adapt to a new environment quickly, logic, and maths, which in my opinion, are the basis for all other things.

  6. DP Sad
    DP Sad says:

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  7. Bruce Edwin
    Bruce Edwin says:

    Training our kids for new jobs in the next decade is not an excellent idea. There is a recession all over the world and a lot of social career opportunities ended and replaced with machines.

    The single and brilliant skill which still works is SELLING SKILL. I will instead try to train my kids in sales. The one who knows “how to sell” knows almost everything to bring a prosperous life.

  8. Ellie
    Ellie says:

    Unfortunately we can no longer choose a job for passion but we must choose it in function of the possibility of finding a job.

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