Is Your Teen Ready for the New Gig Economy?
As homeschoolers, many of us are called upon to be more than high school instructors. We also need to be career coaches and guidance counselors. We tirelessly research the ins and outs of college admission, vocational school requirements, financial aid and scholarships, and other valuable information on behalf of our teens. Our high school students’ coursework often depends on their future career path. However, the world of work is changing rapidly. Is your teen ready for the new gig economy?
Preparation for work
In 2015, about one third of the labor force was engaged in some sort of freelance work, either part-time or full-time, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It is estimated that by the time many of our teens are actively looking for jobs, that percentage will be closer to fifty percent. How will we prepare our teens to meet the challenges of this new economy? We have to start thinking outside the box. Some of the most important skills they will need are not usually part of any curriculum:
• Money management
• Servant leadership
• Flexible thinking
• Lifelong learning
Let’s break these down.
Many of our teens do not need to be taught this, but some still lack the discipline to do the work that is necessary without nagging or threats. I talk about getting teens motivated here. But, we know that being able to say, “No,” to friends when there is work to do is a mature response. It is essential when they are juggling multiple freelance jobs. Learning to buckle down, ignore distractions, and accomplish a goal are important elements of this job trend. Your teen will not be successful without self-discipline.
A freelance economy is a self-employed economy. Your teen needs to know how to run his own business. This includes marketing, accounting, and time management. Anyone hiring himself out for work is his own boss, whether he is a graphic designer or a driver for Uber. If he is going to make a sustainable income from what are known as side hustles, make sure he has some training in entrepreneurship.
Everyone, whether freelancer or not, needs to know how to manage his money. This is especially true for freelancers, though, because their income is sporadic. They must understand how to budget and make their money last. Training in frugal living helps here, too.
This goes hand-in-hand with entrepreneurship. She must understand that it isn’t about her and her need to make a buck. It is about serving others and meeting their needs. If she is going to succeed in this new economy, she must be willing to go the extra mile. Many of these types of jobs can go to folks overseas. She has to make herself indispensable. Think of ways to encourage your teen to align herself with this new value set among business leaders. Look up Michael Hyatt, Mike Dillard, and many others. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs are people of great integrity. Learn from them.
Initiative, Flexible Thinking, and Lifelong Learning
Gone are the days when a college degree practically guaranteed a job. Many college graduates work at coffee shops, sell siding or knives, or have to take jobs unrelated to their field of study. But, they still have to pay back those loans! Workers today have to be more fluid than ever before, constantly learning new skills, and participating in collaborative environments rather than top-down ones. Young people with ideas, initiative, and flexible thinking will flourish in today’s work environment. Help your teen develop these important soft skills by giving him opportunities to take initiative and think outside the box while under your roof. He will carry that confidence into the world.
I hope you are challenged to think differently about preparing your teen for life and work. We know that it is not as simple as earning twenty credit hours through language arts, math, hard and soft sciences, and electives. It is an awesome task to launch our children from our homes. Let’s make sure our mentoring is relevant and current to the times we live in.
Julie Polanco is the homeschooling mother of four children, the oldest having graduated in 2016. She is a frequent contributor to The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and is the high school botany instructor for www.schoolhouseteachers.com. Her book, God Schooling: How God Intended Children to Learn, is now available for pre-order through your favorite bookstore! If you send her a copy of your receipt, you will receive a personalized note from her and a digital exclusive. Go to her website, www.juliepolancobooks.com where she regularly posts about the writing life, homeschooling, Christian living, and her book projects.