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Future Mistake #11: Not Tapping Your Network

One of the most strategic, helpful things my dad did for me when I was growing up was to bring me along to golf with his business clients and colleagues. I can’t count how many times I got to tag along as a 14, 16, or 19-year-old and eavesdrop in on their conversations and interactions. About a decade later, I realized how much of an asset that was for me in my career; I knew instinctively how to build professional relationships. Those learning lessons were priceless, none of which could’ve been learned in a classroom. It would’ve taken me a lot longer to figure it out alone. 

As a dad of a teenage son, lately, I’ve realized that he isn’t really aware of what I do for work, nor the friends I’ve introduced him to. Sure, he knows that one is an attorney, another does real estate, and another is a teacher. But there’s so much more for him to gain from than just their presence and job title. 

I wish those golf outings had been more intentional from my standpoint. If I could go back in time, I would take the opportunity to really get to know people and learn from their experiences. I spent hours with CFOs of significant companies, accountants, executives, and consultants. But besides their names and golf swing, I didn’t know much about them. 

I also didn’t know much about what my dad did all day for work. I knew he left early, came home late, and spent a lot of time in meetings and on the phone, but besides that, I was pretty clueless. My own kids aren’t much different. When they were all little, I took them with me quite often on work trips or to events at which I spoke. Recently, though, I realized that none of them have many memories of those experiences. 

It’s a mistake not to be more intentional with our time with our kids—whether as parents or teachers. Parents have an opportunity to expose their kids to a lot more than they typically do. Teachers have an opportunity to carve out time in their classroom for outside guests to share their career paths and perspectives. 

Here are some uncommon sense ideas to share with your kids about how they can tap into their network: 

  • Get Curious: Chances are, you don’t know what your parents do (or their friends). Go beyond the titles and roles, and start digging into what they do all day, every day. Follow your own curiosity to try to understand their highs and lows, and try your best to get a proper understanding of their daily lives. 
  • Origins: Sure, you know where your parents went to college and maybe how they met, but do you know what led them to their careers of choice? Take a trip down memory lane with them, asking them to share the pivotal moments the brought them to where they are today. 
  • Alternative Universe: You’re already well aware that your dad could’ve definitely been the star cornerback for your local NFL team, but what about his other options? Ask your parents to reflect on the different paths they could’ve taken along the way—perhaps careers where they could transfer their skills effectively. That can broaden your perspective on the choices ahead of you. 
  • Regrets: Besides your parent’s joke that you were a “happy accident,” ask them about any other regrets they have related to their career choices. Even if they’re content with where they are today, try to find out about the opportunities they missed or the jobs they didn’t get selected for. This can help you have a sober perspective of the bumps and bruises most people face throughout their careers. 
  • Hacks: Your mom is a multi-tasking wizard when it comes to getting everything accomplished throughout each day, but what hacks has she figured out about her career? Give your parents an opportunity to give you their best advice—even if it’s the advice they never took themselves. Chances are, they have some wisdom you can borrow.  

Our kids are limited to what they are able to figure out on their own unless you give them a leg up. We might as well be deliberate and intentional about sharing our life experiences with them. Of course, talking with a teenager about serious matters like their future might trigger some stress or anxiety for both of you. Don’t forget to wait for the right time and moment. But don’t wait, either. Life has a way of passing you by before you even notice. 


P.S. What if there was a way to get the best resources to impact the kids in your life—delivered to you at the right time?
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For years we’ve been studying what a young person needs in order to transition into a healthy, thriving adulthood.  

They're uncommon sense ideas, really.

Download this checklist and use it with your students (or kids).

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