I work in one of the most common professions in America. There are more than 14 million of us. People have been flocking to it. So why are so many of them miserable in their jobs?
The problem begins with childhood. From early on, our society isn’t giving kids experiences to help them see how rewarding most careers can be.
Sure, there are some fields that lots of kids get excited about. My daughter is passionate about animals. So, like a lot of kids, she wants to be a veterinarian someday. Many kids dream of becoming astronauts too.
But few of them will. When kids grow up and become adults, tens of millions of them end up falling into careers by default, rather than out of a sense of excitement.
It’s time that we start teaching kids the ins and outs of a wide range of careers, and what can be interesting and fun about all of them. That way, when they get older, they’ll be more empowered to take a realistic look at their strengths and weaknesses and the wide range of fields available to them, and choose paths that they can love. Paths in which they can thrive.
This kind of education doesn’t happen just through talks from parents on career day. It requires structured classes or workshops to focus on developing skills that will be practical and helpful in the professional world. And it requires opportunities to practice actually using those skills. This should become an integral, standard part of how we raise kids in society.
Nowhere is this more clear than in my field. As a sales trainer, I travel around the country and across the world working with sales teams inside all sorts of companies. I see regularly what the numbers bear out.
There are a host of reasons for this. But one of the biggest I see all the time is how people enter the field in the first place.
Far too often when I ask people how they chose this career, they say that they just fell into it. It was the only job they could get out of college, or the most convenient, or they just decided to give it a shot. Rarely did they feel any energy or enthusiasm about it.
This doesn’t just affect the people who hold these jobs — it affects the rest of us as well. At some point, we all need to deal with salespeople, and miserable salespeople are the worst. They can ruin your day.
And since these folks never learned the skills to succeed in the job, many of them cut corners or fail to pull through for the customer, all in hopes of grabbing the next commission check. It’s no wonder that in a survey, only 3% of people said they believe salespeople are trustworthy. (That figure was even lower for car salespeople, at 1%.)
When my daughter had to sell Girl Scout cookies, I realized what a perfect opportunity it was to teach her sales skills, and to feel what it’s like to do a sell well. Not only did she become the top seller in our town, but she overcame her fears and ended up loving the process.
This experience inspired me to write my children’s book, I Want to Be in Sales When I Grow Up! (All profits are going to the World Wildlife Fund, my daughter’s choice.) I want to do my part to help empower all kids with some basic business skills. And everyone, in every line of work, has to “sell” at some point.
I also hope that projects like this will help give girls the skills early on to become leaders in their fields. An experience last year provided a powerful reminder of how prevalent sexism can still be in sales. I want to see the pipelines open for much greater leadership by women in this and every field.
In the end, you can’t make someone love a job. But you can help instill in them the knowledge that a wide range of jobs can make them happy. Hopefully then, when it comes time to starting a career, more young people will be able to to forge a path that’s right for them.