Let's face it — as a parent, you're a control freak. A good control freak, but a freak nonetheless.
If you're reading this (think about it — this is a software company blog targeted to HR pros and high-end managers), there's a high likelihood that your kids are going on to a post-secondary education. Oxford or Harvard? Maybe not, but a nice school in your post-modern cityscape is within Sally's grasp, if only she would stop taking selfies and buckle down to study.
But I'm not here today to talk about where your daughter Sally goes to school. That really doesn't matter. I'm here instead to talk about where Sally needs to work after she finishes university or college.
It's time to plan
You've been a helicopter mom since your kid first came home from the hospital. She's currently booked up with an equal mix of social and developmental activities for the next quarter. And she's only 11 years old.
So why wouldn't you plan her first job for her?
Good news, helicopter mom: I've got your roadmap.
The sweatshops of the information age
Sally's going to need to go to work in a sweatshop of the information age if you want her to really thrive by the time she's 30.
What's a sweatshop of the information age?
It's a knowledge intensive business where your kid can pick up four years of experience in the first 12 months.
If they stay three years, they'll have the equivalent of 12 years of experience. That means they'll be ready to be an overachiever by the time they're 26, which let's face it, is what you desperately want.
But you have to give something to get something.
Common features of an information age sweatshop
The most common feature of the information age sweatshop: it’s a cruel place to work.
Information age sweatshops usually have the following additional features in common:
- They support a business that is knowledge and communication intensive. Think consulting, recruiting, conference/event companies and IT shops. We’re not talking call centers here — we’re talking real knowledge workers.
- The business is such that youngsters with hunger, polish and great communication skills are often as effective as average veterans (note I said average, not veterans who are stars) from a performance perspective.
- Most of the work can be done by phone. Thus the ability to create low privacy cube farms that put everyone in a fishbowl. The new age sweatshop!! Phones and PCs as sewing machines!
- They need to be fed hundreds, if not thousands, of young professionals annually — straight out of undergraduate programs. Your kid is a candidate for this.
- They need that many new recruits because they don’t really invest in development. It’s up or out. You can either figure it out on your own with some minimal help or you can’t. Those who can’t figure it out flush out in a few months. Those who do figure it out get to stay as long as they can handle the pressure. The stars work at the sweatshop for 18-24 months, then cash out for a better job.
The benefits of the sweatshop
If you've read that and think, “there’s no way I’d let Sally work there”, you’re focused on the wrong things.
It’s not about the perks. It’s about the career acceleration. If Sally can thrive there, she can make it anywhere.
Young talent that can survive and/or thrive in the information age sweatshop get the following benefits, unavailable elsewhere at their age:
- They get deep functional area and industry knowledge in a much shorter time-frame than is possible elsewhere. One year in the information age sweatshop is worth four in a more conservative, predictable environment. They have no choice but to give you the business repetitions — it’s their model.
- Youngsters learn to compete. Somebody’s not going to make it. Is it going to be Sally or someone else? Does Sally care? I hope so, because I know you do.
- They learn how to deal with ambiguity. Most information age sweatshops don’t have manuals to tell you what to do next. The kids are making it up as they go, which will be a valuable skill when they bounce out of the sweatshop into their next job.
It's the best thing that could happen to your kid
Unlike many who would say kids are being exploited at the information age sweatshop, I'm going to spin it a different way.
I think the information age sweatshop is the best thing that could happen to my kids.
Not for their entire life; for the first three years of their career.
They get experience, get better at what they do, and then, if they don't like the environment, get out when the time is right.
They're still better off for experiencing the crazy, frenzied work environment at an information age sweatshop.
Use them, let them use you, and never take your eyes off the prize — a long career on your terms because you did the work and learned in a tough environment at a young age.
Advantage: Sweatshop worker. New age style.
Get to work helicopter mom
This is what you want for your kid's first job out of school, Mrs. Helicopter. So start planning.
Good luck with Sally!
Your Turn: Do you think working in an information age sweatshop is a good thing for new graduates to do? Why or why not? Share your thoughts below!