Career advice is not part of my job description

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Your child intends to pursue the same career as yours. What do you say?

I have confronted this problem twice now. The first time was when my son decided to go into journalism. It was 2002, during what seemed like an uncertain time for the news industry. (Looking back, I realize those were actually the good old days, at least compared to now.)

But I didn't discourage him for two reasons:

1. I really believe it's true that you should do what you love and that the money will follow. Not a lot of money, perhaps, but enough to get by. Really, the more important advice to give is the converse of that statement: Do what you hate, and no amount of money will ever be enough. Well-paid misery is still misery.

2. Who listens to their dad at age 18 or 19? I didn't. It worked out.

Now along comes my daughter seven years later, showing some of the same journalistic tendencies as my son: interest in writing, tendency to scoff at authority, compulsion to edit restaurant menus.

Again, I didn't discourage her. I did advise that she's not to worry too much about deciding on a career in high school or even the first year of college. Buy a little time, I said.

I'm always amazed that anyone declares a major at 18. What's the rush? Go to college and see what's interesting - that was my advice. I may wish I hadn't given it if I'm still paying her tuition seven or eight years from now. But at the moment it seemed sound.

Parents are probably not the best career advisers anyway. For one thing, we incite rebellion in our offspring. Encourage them to go into accounting, and they might decide to become tattoo artists instead.

For another thing, by the time you've put two or three decades in a career, you know its every drawback. Your protective side is powerfully tempted to warn them away because you don't want them to suffer the same frustration and pressure - as if it's possible to find a career that doesn't come with frustration and pressure.

But some eternal truths do apply to most workplaces. And so while I might not tell a child which career to choose, I might offer advice on the world of work in general. Three things I'd be sure to say:

  • The only way to effectively save money is to have it deducted from your pay before you get your check. Do that starting with the first paycheck you draw in your working life, and never stop.
  • When you screw up at work, there's a magic three-word phrase you can repeat that will go a long way toward repairing your image. The phrase is: "I screwed up." Use it as needed.
  • Everyone at work is busy. That's the point of being at work. Being busy is never an excuse for being a jerk.

Joe Blundo's column, So to Speak, appears in the Life section of The Columbus Dispatch. It's a mix of humor, human interest and information. A collection of his columns has been published in the book Dancing Dads, Defective Peeps and Buckeye Misadventures. He lives in Worthington with his wife and two children.