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Business And Careers Careers Advice Parenting

Dads: Careers advice for your children

As your children get older, your role as a father changes. While my eldest daughter is only 12, I have found myself having to give careers advice. And have to talk to her about the educational choices required to achieve her career choices.

Giving careers advice to youngsters presents certain challenges because the world of employment moves rapidly. When I was young, internships didn’t exist. Neither did modern apprenticeships and if you didn’t go to university, people would cross the road to avoid you (okay, slight exaggeration but university was the expected route for most people).

So what careers advice should a father give to their child in 2021? How can you make sure you are not giving advice suitable for the 1990s? I’ve spoken to a recruitment expert and leadership expert (both dads, fittingly), a higher education expert and a Government Minister to find out.

Don’t expect to have everything figured out from day one

As a teen, I felt under immense pressure to decide what I was going to do with my life. Much of the pressure came from my family who wanted to know I had a firm career path. But transformative coach Matthew Fox says this is a mistake.

“Don’t feel that you have to have worked out how life is going to be from day one. There are many chapters that will unfold which you can’t predict or control. Enjoy each of them as they lead to the next one.”

Fox, who works with senior leaders and business owning dads, added that you “shouldn’t compare yourself to others” and that you should “be ready to jump at opportunities when they arise.”

I found these comments very interesting. I was expecting something about choosing your A-levels. Fox, however, seems to be suggesting flexibility and a positive mental attitude will take you far (you can check out Fox’s leadership and fatherhood podcast here).

Consider vocational qualifications

The Government has made no secret of its desire to make more vocational qualifications available and to increase their appeal. One of the newest qualifications is the T-Level which was launched last year.

Rather like A-Levels, T-Levels are available to study immediately after GCSEs. You study them for two years and they are a mix of classroom learning and on the job experience. A T-Level is the equivalent to three A-Levels.

Speaking exclusively to DaddyJobs.co.uk, Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills Gillian Keegan said:

“With course content designed by over 250 leading employers and a nine-week industry placement included, T Levels offer young people a unique opportunity to gain the knowledge and skills businesses need so they can get a head start on their future career.”

As a new qualification, T-Levels are only available in a few industries right now. But they’re going to expand massively between now and 2023. Keegan explained:

“Those interested in designing buildings or managing construction sites should take a look at the T-Levels in Construction, young people keen to explore a career working with children should think about the Education and Childcare course and anyone thinking of becoming a programmer or a software engineer should consider our Digital T Levels.”

T-Levels look like a superb option to academic study and the planned subject areas (see here) are very impressive. These are definitely a qualification to watch, especially if you have a younger teen as more options will be available to them in the next few years. Encouraging children to look into this route could be a good piece of careers advice.

Career paths can be “wiggly”. So your careers advice may need to be “wiggly” too.

Josie Whiteley is a former lecturer, freelance education consultant and vice-chair of the National Education Union Leadership Council. (In other words, she’s a big deal in the world of higher education).

As you might expect, Whiteley is an advocate of higher education. Stressing that youngsters should make choices based on their interests:

“When making choices whether for GCSEs or jobs choose subjects/specialisms/areas that interest you, not what your parents or teachers say you ought to study.”

While big on education, Whiteley says practical skills are important: “Dads should ensure their kids know how to budget to survive college, the real world or a job.”

Whiteley also said dads should encourage their offspring to research career choices. As they may be working in their chosen field for years, maybe decades. Even so, she said young people should not panic if something doesn’t work out: “If you make a wrong subject or career choice you can always change. Your road map to reach your ideal job might just look a bit more wiggly than a straight route from A to B.”

It’s about YOU

“I’ve interviewed thousands of people over the years and I can categorically tell you, not one person has been offered a role where they didn’t fit the company.” says recruitment specialist and dad Phil Palmer, AKA The Corporate Dad.

Palmer has not only worked in recruitment for 12 years, but is trying to help his 18-year-old daughter navigate “the important choices in her life”. He believes that “education is just one of the tools that you will need. A lot can come down to ‘you’.”

He adds that having a degree can be important for certain roles. He states:

“I wouldn’t want an unqualified doctor working on my appendix”. But stresses he’s known graduates starting in admin roles and senior C-suite executives without degrees.

Palmer says social skills are vital, especially in an interview scenario. Answering with yes / no answers won’t get you far.

“What do you like? Can you hold a conversation and talk about interesting and relevant facts? Do you actively listen?”

I thought this advice followed on nicely from Fox’s. Employers want to know that you are the right person for the role and that you have the skills to do the job well. Again, it’s not simply about qualifications as it can come down to your ability to hold a conversation and communicate.

In summary; a good piece of careers advice is that character is important

Providing your children with careers advice is never going to be easy. Speaking to these experts, however, shows that an individual’s character is vitally important. This will dictate their attitude to decision making and study. It’ll also dictate whether they fit in an organisation and have skills such as communication and listening skills. Qualifications definitely have their place, but youngsters shouldn’t feel railroaded down the academic route. If there’s one thing I have taken away from this exercise, it’s that career paths are not always straight. Youngsters should not feel pressured to have their life mapped out at a young age. They may not know what they want to do at first and mistakes can be undone. It’s up to us parents to support the decisions our children make. And accept the fact we may not necessarily agree with them.

Categories
Parenting

How To Build Your Own Daddy Support Community

A Daddy Support Community – It’s More valuable Than You May Think!

A little while ago, I was taking part in a panel discussion about flexible working. I was the only man on the panel. I found myself getting very frustrated with how the discussion was going.

Time and again the female panel members said it was important to have a network of friends to call upon for support. I should make clear that “friends” was code for “mum friends”. One of the panel said she was part of a WhatsApp group that featured 25 friends she called upon for help. Help such as picking kids up from school at the last minute, I simply had to respond. 

The microphone was passed to me. I made it absolutely clear that a dad could only dream of that level of support. I’ll paraphrase, but I said that what dads desperately need is “mum friends”. That mums needed to be more willing to mix with and support dads. Even if I say so myself, my comments caused a bit of a stir and I’m glad they did!

Issues For Dads. . . + What To Do About Them

When it comes to seeking support and help, dads face a few barriers. In this article, I’ll focus on two of the main ones.

First of all, men are often raised to be strong, silent, solitary types. They can feel awkward admitting they need help or someone to talk to. It can seem like weakness.

My advice to any dad is to smash this barrier down. You’ll need help and support and your children will throw unexpected curve balls at you. You can’t and shouldn’t be expected to deal with this on your own. Re-evaluate what you were taught about men and how they should behave when you were growing up. 

You are, after all, simply trying to care for your children. What could possibly be more masculine that that?

Second, informal support networks are often very mum-centric. Nursery groups, Parent Teacher Associations, school WhatsApp groups and Facebook groups can seem very mum-heavy. 

As a stay and work from home dad of many years standing, I’d say it’s imperative on you have a presence in these networks. Mums need to get used to dads being active in these groups. The only way that’ll happen is if dads engage with them and make a positive contribution. It can be lonely and it isn’t always easy, but it would be in your interests to get involved.

What Support Exists For Dads And How To Build Your Own Daddy Support Network?

Okay, so let’s take a look at what support does exist for dads. At the beginning of the parenting journey are National Childbirth Trust groups.

I personally found the support from the NCT limited. However, if you are willing to get together for coffee with the boys from your NCT group, I’d strongly recommend it. I often hear of mums meeting up with NCT mums years after giving birth. Why not dads too?

I’d also suggest getting in touch with your local Sure Start or health centre. In most localities you’ll find some kind of group for fathers. The group in my area was called Saturdads. As the name suggests, it gave dads a chance to mix and mingle with other dads and their kids on Saturday mornings.

Just one observation I’d make about these groups. They usually meet the needs of working dads. Saturdays are often ‘mum time’ in households like mine where dad does most of the childcare. Stay at home dads who look after the kids during the week, are unlikely to want to mingle with dads and other people’s kids at the weekend. 

This brings me nicely on to the subject of where at stay at home dads can look for support. Since the introduction of Shared Parental Leave in 2015, there’s been an increase in fathers undertaking the ‘at home’ role, albeit often for just a few months. Even if these men are only fulfilling the main carer role for a few months, they still need support.

Outside of the trendiest parts of East London, stay at home dad support is incredibly thin on the ground. You’re best heading online where you’ll find communities such as the UK At Home Dads Facebook group. This group, is a great resource and in the pre-COVID days, organising the occasional face-to-face meet up.

TheDadsNet also has a variety of online groups plus local groups run by volunteers across the country. It’s worth having a look to see if there is something in your area.

Daddy Support Community Apps

Over the past year, we have seen the launch of a couple of apps. These give dads a chance to meet like-minded people. These are for stay at home or working dads. DadApp is one such app while DadAF is another (just don’t ask what the F stands for). 

Online, Offline And A Little Dose Of Confidence

If you’re going to build a community you can call upon for dad support, it is likely to be a mix of online and offline communities. I’m afraid there is no escaping that mums do have more access to formal and informal support. But, if you look around, there are opportunities out there. I’d also say there the future looks rosier than it did when I became a dad over a decade ago. More recognition that dads need support exist and more has become available. Even if more is needed. 

You may need a little dose of confidence to meet with dads (…and mums) you’ve not spoken to before. If you can muster that confidence, you’ll find some great networks do exist. Don’t worry, everyone you speak to will have been in exactly the same position as you!

Daddy support is just as important as mum support.

Categories
Flexible Working Parenting

I’m A Dad And I Work Flexibly

Making Changes At Work

I always wanted to be a ‘hands on’ dad. Getting stuck in with feeding, nappy changes, cuddles, development milestones and all of the other things associated with caring for a baby. So, when my daughter was born in 2006, I decided to request a change to my contract to enable me to spend one day per working week with her.

At the time I was working five days per week in a London office in a technology related role; I was not in a position financially to take a reduction in salary, so I went for the ‘compressed hours’ option. By 2007 I was working full time hours across four days rather than five and became a bona fide flexible worker!

Was Changing To Flexible Working A Positive Experience?

On Wednesday’s I would take my daughter (and later my son) to playgroups and the park to feed the ducks while my colleagues toiled away in the office. It was a really positive experience and I have no regrets. However, I did have to endure the occasional jibe about not being available for important meetings and I feel those two years did affect my progression within that team. Once I returned to five-day weeks in 2009, I felt so strongly about this, that I moved to a different department.

The Covid Effect

Fast forward to March 2020, I was still London based, albeit at a different company. I was preparing to start a new job in April 2020. My working pattern was four days in the office and one day ‘working from home’. Which at the time was still considered less productive. Then the COVID-19 enforced lockdown happened, overnight I became a remote worker!

Like most people, the idea of working from home all the time sounded great. I embraced it wholeheartedly – no more crowded trains and expensive sandwiches; however, after a couple of weeks the novelty started to wear off.

Especially when I realised that I was facing the prospect of starting a new job at the height of lockdown in late April 2020!

Starting A New Job During Covid Lockdown

Sure enough, I started my new job and was on boarded remotely without any issues. However, one of my strengths is collaboration and brainstorming. I enjoy conversing with colleagues in both formal and informal settings. None of this was going to be possible for me, at a time when I was trying to establish myself in a new role.

For this reason, my first few months were extremely challenging from a mental health perspective. Especially when home schooling was also factored in.

Tips On How To Thrive As A Remote Worker

However, it is possible to thrive as a remote worker and over time I have managed to adjust successfully. Some tips to enable this included:

  • Developing a routine – including work start and finish times.
  • Taking regular breaks – for comfort and beverages.
  • Doing some exercise – getting outside for at least an hour during the day if possible.
  • Arranging informal catch ups with colleagues during the working day.
  • Discussing any mental health issues with a line manager.

The Future Of Work Beyond Covid

An ideal situation going forward will be a balance of office and home-based work. Local high streets and communities have begun to thrive during the lockdown. I’m hoping that things will change for the better. We’ve proved that it’s not necessary to be in the office all the time to be productive.

A guest blog from Mo Philip.

Disclaimer: This blog represents my personal views and not those of my employer.