People have been congratulating me this past month on your birth and my becoming your grandfather. It’s not that it took much work on my part, but the way the congratulations have been flowing in you’d think I won the Nobel Prize or something.
I must be honest here and tell you that I’m still not sure what my responsibilities are as your grandfather. The first assignment given to me by my son (your dad) was to decide what you should call me. That was a bit of a stumper. I ended up Googling it and it came up with Gramps, Peepaw and Babaloo. You are only a month old and I am already failing as your grandfather. I should have asked Alexa.
Google did tell me that one of my roles as your grandfather is to teach you things you’ll need to know as an adult based on my experiences or professions. My knowledge of economic development and being an entrepreneur won’t help you fix your sink or change your tire in a rainstorm, but it’s what I know and since you’re not old enough to tell me that you know everything already, I’m just going to go ahead and tell it to you anyway based on almost 30 years in the profession.
Let me start by saying that the job of any economic developer is to create healthy communities. That doesn’t mean they create jobs, though living wage jobs are an important part of any healthy community. Jobs give people value, hope and a sense of community. Arguably, I believe jobs will reduce homelessness, poverty, crime and even terrorism. So, as you can see, economic development is currently an honored profession that could save the world. Not quite like James Bond, but close. (you may have to google James Bond to understand that reference)
Even so, I was not blessed with a crystal ball. I can’t tell you what kind of jobs will be around when you’re old enough to work. I’ve heard that 65% of your generation will work in jobs that don’t even exist yet. Who knows? There may even be no such thing as an economic developer in the future world you’ll inhabit. We may just be a wax figure in some Past Jobs Pavilion that you visit with your VR headset.
Automation and artificial intelligence will lead to a lot of changes in jobs, skills and careers. It’s the way it is and always has been. The market is always changing. Don’t be frightened by change. Embrace it at the very least and if possible, anticipate it so you can take advantage of new opportunities that come your way.
But here are some thoughts that I think will not change over the years that you may find helpful as you enter your adult life.
Your first job will not be your only job. The average worker currently holds 10 different jobs before age 40 and this number is projected to grow for your generation. Your great-grandfather had one job in his lifetime. I have had 17 jobs in my lifetime.
Learn the difference between a job and a career. A job is what you start out having that will provide income and experience for you until you find a career. A career is the pursuit of a lifelong ambition and is attained through a series of connected employment opportunities.
Education is not just about classroom learning. Informal learning occurs in places other than the classroom. You will learn for a lifetime. Find opportunities to learn from others every chance you get. Challenging, exciting and different experiences will give you opportunities to learn and introduce you to new professions. These outside experiences give meaning, relevance and context to classroom learning.
Professional career knowledge comes in many forms. Eighty percent of the population is learning new skills outside of college. This can be in the form of apprenticeships, internships, military, on the job training, clubs, volunteer work and many other pursuits that can assist you in finding your place in life.
Use volunteer work to fill gaps in your resume. Volunteering will provide you with experience, help develop your skills, expand your network, and give you an opportunity to learn more about an industry or occupation. Once you find a job or a career, continue to volunteer for those less fortunate than you. A job fills your wallet, volunteering fills your heart.
A four-year college degree is not necessarily the answer. College may allow you to have a broad education, meet diverse people, lay the groundwork for your social and political beliefs, join a community of learners and even meet your life partner like I did. But a traditional four-year degree is not central to career success these days and may even be less so as you grow older and need to make that important decision after high school.
Innovation will never be replaced by automation. The constant thought of improving people’s lives has been around since the beginning of time. It will never go away. Not even robots can replace the human capacity for breathtakingly fresh ideas. Every individual has unique traits. Cultivate those traits with inspiration and creativity by surrounding yourself with people who revel in questioning the status quo.
Recognize the importance of art in your life. Art is not just about being a spectator. Nearly 3.48 million people make a living in the arts – whether it’s music, painting, dancing, acting, writing – the list is endless. Even if you have no artistic talent like your grandfather, you can still participate in the arts and even integrate it into almost any career.
Avoid accepting a job or entering a career for the money. When looking for a job, one of the first things people look for on a job description is salary. The first thing you should be looking for is whether this job will fulfill you. There is absolutely no correlation between a higher salary and job satisfaction. Earning less money may mean you have fewer things in life but money can’t buy happiness. People who are not satisfied in their career suffer from more stress, depression and fatigue. Take it from me – nothing is worth that.
Becoming an entrepreneur is not easy. Every business starts out with an idea to be a successful entrepreneur, grow the company, create jobs and make lots of money. But not everyone can be an entrepreneur. You must be willing to take a risk, sacrifice some of the finer things in life and often go without a salary. I started three companies, none of which were financial successes. This is not meant to discourage you, only warn you. For me, creating a company and a product was one of the most satisfying things I did in life. Entrepreneurs have a huge impact on our economy and people’s lives. But it is not for everyone.
So, dear Elora, I will finish by telling you how excited I am to have you join our family. You have two wonderful, loving parents who have an amazing network of family and friends that will be a part of your life forever. They will love you no matter what you decide to do.
You already have your grandfather’s heart. Even if you don’t become an economic developer or an entrepreneur.