Saturday, May 11, 2013

Teaching My Kid To Get A Career...

Follow Your Passion

(This post originally appeared at Dad-O-Matic.)

Those of you with kids in diapers or grade school may want to skip this post (unless you want a peek into the future at one of the many other parenting adventures you can look forward to facing). Those of you with teens and young adults getting ready to enter the workforce and start to earn more than an allowance, please read on...

Jobs vs. Career

In simple terms, I think of a job as something you do to make money. This is especially true when we are young. Babysitting, dog walking, lawn mowing, packing grocery bags, hawking fast-food, etc., are all "jobs" we do to make money, and they are usually among the first paid work experiences our kids will have. While great to teach the values of a good work ethic, responsibility and to start learning to save and spend their own money, few of us would consider any of these occupations a "career" for our kids. Careers are work that we are passionate about, that we believe in, that we truly love to do. Jobs are important, but a true career is the goal.
But What Is A Career???

In truth, the above is an over-simplification, especially in today's world. Our kids are likely to move around during their careers far more than we have. Growing up in a hyper-connected world where any fact is just a few taps away, and where "attention deficit" is no longer a disorder, but rather the order of the day, our kids will likely find many interests and passions to pursue throughout their careers, and take far more circuitous routes than we may have taken as their parents. But they have to start somewhere...

Getting Into The Industry You Love

My middle son is a musician (a guitarist and songwriter, to be more specific). He recently graduated from the Berklee College of Music, and is currently living the life of a struggling artist, manning the cash register at a hipster Brooklyn cafe to pay the proverbial bills while making music the rest of his waking hours. But he wants to work in a music related job, and as his dad, I felt compelled to give him some guidance and a plan of action that will hopefully land him with a job he can become passionate about... a job that will contribute to a career.

Don't Look For A Job, Look For A Network

Here's what I recommended to my son:

1) Leverage Your Obvious Strengths (and don't be shy about it) - Sure, you are an extremely talented musician, but right now you have little tangible "professional" experience. What you do have is a degree from a respected music school with many accomplished alumni working in all areas of the music industry. That "Berklee Connection" is perhaps your greatest asset at this early stage of your career. Use it!

2) Build A Network, One Cup Of Coffee At A Time - Through resources like LinkedIn and Berklee's alumni databases, create a list of alumni actively working in the music industry in New York City. Get an email address or phone number for each, as well as their office address. With the goal of getting 10 personal meetings a week, start contacting everyone on this list. IMPORTANT: You are not looking for a job, you are looking for a mentor. Ask people to tell you about themselves: "Hi, I am a recent Berklee graduate living in Brooklyn. I'd love to have 15 minutes of your time to ask you a few questions about how you started your career after you graduated. I am actually going to be in the neighborhood of your office on Tuesday afternoon. If I could stop by to see you for a few minutes, I'll bring the coffee - what do you like from Starbucks?... yada yada yada." Shoot for a personal meeting, but if all you can get is some time on the phone take it.

3) Listen, Learn, Then Ask - People love to talk about themselves and share their accomplishments. Your goal is not to ask for a job, but ask for knowledge and advice. Have 5-6 solid questions ready for your meetings, focused on how THEY got started after THEY graduated from Berklee. Be smart, be personable, let them do most of the talking and LISTEN. Keep track of the time and when 15 minutes are up, let them know, and that you don't want to take too much of their time (giving them the opportunity to end it smoothly or keep the conversation going - at their choice.)

4) The Ask - When you're meeting is done, thank them sincerely, and ask if it would be okay for you to stay in touch periodically. Then ask if there is anyone else in the industry they think you would benefit from speaking to. If they have a recommendation, ask if they would be willing to make an introduction. Then let them know if you can ever help them out with anything, no matter how trivial, it would be your pleasure. Thank them again and get your butt out of their office.

5) The Follow Up - Within 24 hours of the meeting, send a short email, thanking them, saying how valuable it was to learn their story, and reminding them you'd greatly appreciate any other industry introductions they'd be willing to make.

6) Rinse, Repeat - Do this diligently and push hard to get those 10 meetings a week. Many will blow you off, say no or ignore your request altogether, but some will agree to meet you, and every one of those will be an extremely valuable opportunity to learn and grow your industry network. Don't worry about the "no's" and keep focused on getting the "yes." The numbers are on your side. The more folks you contact, the more times you will hear yes.

7) Be Patient - I told my son that I am confident that if he follows the above plan and actually gets meetings every week, in a matter of time he will be working in the music industry, and be able to give up his job to start his career.

What do you think? Do you agree with the advice I gave my son? Am I missing something that you would recommend? Please let me know in the comments (and thanks!)

Finally, a shameless plug: If you are, or know someone in the Music biz in NY, and you or they would be willing to meet my (awesome, talented, hard-working) son, please let me know and I'd be very happy to make the introduction. :-)

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 24, Ethan, 22 and Olivia, 21).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab and you can listen to Jeff on the Cast of Dads,  Wunderkind!  and Gape Into The Void podcasts.  Jeff just launched a new story podcast, DadSlam.

Photo Credit: © rnl -
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