Adult kid still home? Career guidance would help

Adult kid still home? Career guidance would help
By Judith Briles
Denver Business Journal
December 16, 2005

What happens when you work at a job you feel indifferent about, or even hate? How about the manager who has to oversee you?

When I deal with workplace issues that evolve around attitude, productivity and turnover, there’s always someone there who doesn’t want to be, or shouldn’t be. It results in sabotage of personal work and those around them, lower productivity and turnover.
There are countless studies on age differentials in the workplace, everything from which generation is more motivated, more loyal, risk-averse, techno-savvy, etc.

Now there’s the Millennials, those 25 and under, a huge group numbering more than 64 million.

Career strategists such as Anne Angerman, president of Career Matters ( ) in Denver, work with people of all ages who are trying to find a career or make a career change. A great deal of her work is with 20- to 30-year-olds, the merging adults in today’s workplace.

This group has challenges. Depression, alcohol and drug abuse, eating disorders and suicide stats have tripled in the last 20 years. “The age of adulthood has stretched from 22 to 26,” she said. “These young adults are having a harder time finding their place in the world. It’s not uncommon to finish college and immediately enroll for another degree or certificate.”

A bachelor’s degree used to take four years to earn; today it’s six. Is school that much harder? Are the courses more difficult? Who pays for the extra two years?

Usually the parents, and they may be part of the problem. People are usually more sensitive to costs and outcomes if it comes out of their own pocket. Statistics show that 58 percent of 21-year-olds are still living at home (or have boomeranged back), and it’s 34 percent of those at age 25.

Have we parents made it too easy? Are kids too indulged? Why are there so many young adults with bachelor’s degrees who can’t find a good match for a career? Why is college now six years? Why do so many young adults struggle with career choice? Did we handicap our kids by focusing on their happiness instead of making them get out there and work?

Angerman said one problem is that kids are urged to go to college, but don’t know why. “Few do any true career assessment in high school — they are simply told, ‘Go to college,'” Angerman said.

“In the workplace, 75 percent of recent graduates see no relationship with what they were studying and now what they actually do.” Yikes.

She said it’d be a good idea to put some space between high school and college. “Research shows that it’s far more important to have a vision for career success than being brilliant,” Angerman said. “When you have a vision — using your natural abilities (research shows they’re solidified by age 16), skills, personality, interests and values–it’s where you want to focus your energy. The end result is more success.”

So natural abilities are the keys. My question to her was simple, “I thought that career testing was done in high school. Wouldn’t those natural abilities pop out at that time?”

They would, but according to Angerman, “The great majority of high schools don’t do career testing; in fact, few used any assessment testing.” Such a test costs money. Schools don’t have it, or don’t want to spend it.

Spend it? As a parent, I would gladly pop for a few hundred bucks, knowing it probably would save me thousands in tuition costs. And as an employer, I sure would want to know that I’m hiring the right person with the right skills, abilities, personality and interests for the position I’m trying to fill.

So, what do we do?

If you’re a parent of a teen or college student, start with getting them out of the house. Make them work for pay in a field of interest. Forget about how much money is made — the goal is to learn if there’s an interest in creating a career in the field.

Other options are volunteerism or internships. To the adult child: Don’t expect to get paid. If a student has to work to help pay bills, still do volunteer work. Be willing to be a bottom-dweller — you can only move up. Too many young people expect that they’re going to earn top dollar when they start. Get over it. The key is to know yourself — your likes and dislikes.

For the manager, you must help employees determine their strengths and weaknesses. This isn’t optional. Ask them what projects did they work at and do well at? Also ask them about projects they didn’t do so well at. If one was great at designing and laying out a project but a disaster at follow-up, you’ve got some major hints of work skills (or not). Sometimes, a manager has to “de-hire” an employee — a wrong fit for the team.

You can offer an inexpensive assessment, such as the Myers Briggs Type Indicator and the Strong Interest Inventory. Angerman prefers the Highlands Ability Battery. It’s a non-self-report and the results don’t change over time. And it not only measures natural abilities, but also styles of learning and communication.

Assessment tools can be expensive at first glimpse. But consider this: If you’ve hired the wrong person, or you’ve got the right person doing the wrong job, it’s going to cost you plenty of money. Not only is his productivity not up to par, but the domino factor comes into play. Others are affected by a crummy attitude, by someone who just can’t get work processed in a timely manner, by lagging, tardiness and even absences.

Judith Briles is a speaker and consultant about workplace issues and has written more than 20 books. Reach her at 303-627-9179 or