Let Kids Pursue Meaningful Work

Let Kids Pursue Meaningful Work

When we moved from an industrialized economy to a knowledge economy, we started to put an awful lot of pressure on our kids. We developed an expectation that they should know what career they’d pursue. Before they’re even adults.

That’s a pretty big ask. Particularly for kids. Kids who change their minds about an awful lot of things, seemingly without reason.

When kids change their minds about their favorite foods, musicians, and friends, we don’t care. But, collectively, as a society, we seem pretty concerned when they change their minds about their careers. We act as if this indecisiveness is a sign. A sign that their inner compass is somehow defective.

It’s natural to be indecisive. No one can see their future. 

Even adults can be indecisive. There are plenty of adults that change course midway, or more, through their career. The work they first pursued is no longer meaningful. They want something more.

To ease our insecurities, we just need to look at some of these people who have changed paths to find greater meaning, and still found success.

Where do you find examples? They’re all around you. Once you find one, you begin to see them everywhere. 

I’m particularly amazed by attorneys that pivot to something completely different then law. There are countless examples, but here are my three favorites. You can find them on Instagram. Take a look and you’ll see. They’re not only happy with their newfound careers, but quite successful at them too.

The first is Jessie Sheehan, a recipe developer and cookbook author. She actually studied acting in college. Then she went to law school, clerked for a judge, and practiced law. But, once on maternity leave, she didn’t want to go back to practicing law. So she became, in essence, an apprentice at a bakery.  

She started with small tasks, like packaging. Then, she learned how to bake simple recipes.

Next, when the bakery was writing cookbooks, Jessie became their recipe tester — making sure the bakery’s recipes would work at home. 

After some time, Jessie’s skills had grown such that she could develop her own recipes. Now, she has her own blog, and writes her own cookbooks.

Then there’s Shawn Askinosie, the founder and CEO of Askinosie Chocolate. Before chocolate, Shawn was a criminal defense attorney. He loved his work. But, he was operating at a pace that was mentally and physically draining. He knew he needed to do something else. But he had no hobbies. No outside interests. So, he spent five years contemplating and searching for something else to do.

Eventually, he landed on making chocolate. About which he knew nothing. So, he applied all of his lawyerly skills to learning about making chocolate. Within a few months, he discovered his niche. He’d become a “bean to bar” chocolate maker.

Soon he was buying equipment and traveling to the Amazon, buying cocoa at its source.

Now his company, Askinosie Chocolate, is not just successful, it’s a working model for sustainable business practices. And, Shawn is also an author. He recently wrote a book about his career pivot, Meaningful Work: A Quest To Do Great Business, Find Your Calling, And Feed Your Soul.

Last, but not least, is Valentine Thomas, a professional spearfisher. After law school, Valentine pursued work in finance. On a whim, she took a free diving course with some friends. She was hooked. From there, Valentine learned to spearfish, which eventually consumed all of her thoughts. So, she quit her finance job.

Now, Valentine travels the world catching fish, advocating for sustainable fishing, and sharing stories of the people she meets along the way.

In my mind, these are the examples we should share with our kids. They serve as proof that passions are developed, not found. That what you know, or think you know, at 18, is not set in stone.

I don’t know why it became so commonplace to believe that career choices had to be made at the very beginning of adulthood. There’s no law requiring a decision. But, we act as if that’s true. We speak in whispers about the kids that, “don’t yet know.”

We need to relax. It’ll all work out. If Valentine Thomas can go from law school, to finance, to finding success and happiness spearing fish — well, then, who are we to question where kids’ passions might lead.

Certainly, kids need our support. Our guidance, at times. But, for them to pursue meaningful work, we need to stop putting pressure on them to know things — things that many adults have yet to even discover. They’ll figure it out. And, be better off for having done it in their own time.

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