Taking Teens to Work with You
April 25th is Take Our Daughters And Sons to Work® Day. This program was designed to educate children about the endless possibilities and wide variety of jobs for their future, teach them about the realities of work, and give them a glimpse of what the adults in their lives do during the day. The program provides adults the opportunity to demonstrate the importance and challenges of integrating work and family while allowing youth to explore career possibilities and learn workplace skills. Teens feel valued when adults take an interest in them, so job shadowing will help build their self-esteem. Many companies participate in the April 25th program, but even if yours doesn’t, some companies will allow teens to “job shadow” if an adult expresses interest.
Teens can benefit a great deal from being in a workplace environment. They can see what different positions and careers entail, how employees respectfully interact with supervisors, and how coworkers work together. Depending on the job, they might be able to observe the proper use of skills such as time management, negotiation, or customer service. Even if your child walks away from the day saying that such-and-such job is NOT what they want to do, the exposure to the workplace is incredibly valuable.
Preparing Before the Day
Spending a little time in preparation with your child before the workday can make a big difference in having a successful Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day experience. Here are some tips:
- Coordinate with School. You must contact the school to let them know your child will be spending the day with you. Explain to the teacher what will happen and ask the teacher to send home assignments that will be missed, if there are any. In some cases, the teacher may allow a short report on your child’s experience to replace homework for the day or count for extra credit.
- Manage Expectations. Spend a little time explaining to your teen what the day will be like. Talk about how you spend the majority of your time (in front of a computer, in meetings, driving to sales calls, answering phones, etc.) so they won’t be surprised.
- Be Prepared for Down Times. Encourage your teen to bring something to read or some homework to complete for moments when there is down time or you are very busy and can’t interact with your teen.
- Suggest A Question List. Tell your teen to prepare a list of questions about your workplace. As they observe your day, they can try to answer the questions, and then you can answer any remaining questions at the end of the day.
Creating a Meaningful Day
Without some well-laid plans, your day can easily become annoying for you and your teen. You want this to be a meaningful experience. Here are some tips:
- Consider a tour. Rather than having your son or daughter stuck in your office all day, see if you can arrange time and logistics for a tour of other offices, departments or functions in your organization. You might ask a colleague in another part of the business to talk to your teen for an hour about what they do.
- Coordinate with other parents. If other parents at your workplace are participating in the program, find time to let the teens mingle a little. You might coordinate a group activity for the teens, such as a presentation from Human Resources. Or perhaps you can rotate the teens among you so they can get a taste of the many different roles at one company. Coordinating among you will make the day more interesting for the students.
- Show the benefit of their education. Job shadowing offers many opportunities for you to demonstrate to your teen how their education is preparing them for the world of work. Look for times when math, reading or writing skills are used at work.
- Ask for their input. Teens love to be consulted. After an experience during the day, ask them how they would have handled the situation and why. It will enhance communication and help them think through and process their experience.
- Make it a bonding experience. Enjoy lunch together at a special place as a way to make memories.
- Model good technology habits. One of the best skills you can show them is how to deal responsibly with technology. Do not spend your entire workday behind the computer! Since many tweens or teens socialize primarily online, model the value of face-to-face communication in the workplace. You can even use non-work conversations to demonstrate that a face-to-face conversation stimulates humor and interest, as well as perks you up to go back to work. This is also an excellent moment to teach “tech breaks.” Show your tween or teen that you can work for 30 minutes without interruption, and then give yourself a break to check your email and texts.
- Talk about teamwork. Depending on your profession, a teen may only understand parts of what you do. Regardless of the complexity of your work, a concept your youth can understand is teamwork. Explain how different jobs in the business are important to each other and how people work together.
- Use the day to begin value discussions. Use the day to discuss values you have. For example, you may use a heated work discussion with a colleague as a springboard for discussing communication skills. Or perhaps you can use a co-worker’s experience to demonstrate that your child’s ability to reach his or her goals depends only on belief in self, determination and hard work.
Helping the Teen Who is Not Interested in Your Career
If you have already taken your teen to work with you in a previous year, or if your teen has very different interests from your career, do not simply discount Take Our Daughters And Sons to Work® Day! You might be able to connect your teen with similar opportunities outside of your business. For example, you could ask friends and family if they would allow your teen to job shadow them. An aunt might really enjoy the opportunity to take their niece or nephew to work! If your teen is really interested in a legal profession, contact a local court house. Many local governments offer teens a chance to observe simple court proceedings and procedures, or even the jury selection process. If your teen is interested in a government or public service job (perhaps as a police officer or scientist at the CDC), many agencies might allow your teen to participate in activities they are offering for their children’s employees.
You may want to have your teen visit the website Kids Work! Youth can tour a virtual hospital, TV station or theater featuring professional profiles, with information on how school work relates to the real world, and related interactive games.