Most Career Paths Stink Now. So How Do You Steer Your Kids?

Photo (cc) by yomanimus

A parent’s heart has to be big and endure many things, but among the most painful is seeing your young adult child thrash about, unable to find a clear path to happiness.

Jobs aren’t everything, of course, but the 20s are all about finding satisfying work that pays the bills and maybe points toward a relatively comfortable future. Sadly, the obvious paths for those things are all but gone. Every mom (and dad) wants, above all, for their kids to be happy. But that’s a pretty tall order right now.

As the new year begins, and resolutions about making a better life are made, it’s worth some examination.

Lawyer. Doctor. Pilot. Professor. A generation ago, parents might dream that their kids would end up in a prestigious, glamorous and lucrative job like one of those. Today … not so much.

I was at a conference dinner last year, surrounded by very successful people. Most had kids between 5 and 15 years old. As we rounded out our discussion about the tough, recovering, restless economy, and the trouble of finding a good town with good schools, talk turned to what these parents hoped for their kids’ future. And everyone at the table drew a big, sad blank.

These weren’t parents looking for their kids to become a doctor in the way a 1950s family wanted their kids to become a doctor. These were parents who were swapping ideas on what direction to nudge their kids so they would be fairly assured of a decent life after college. All ideas that came up were quickly tossed aside.

For starters, most of them were well-paid computer security folks, and they brushed aside the prospect of having junior follow in their footsteps. Sure, there’s plenty of money to be made, but everyone I know who works in security is trying to get out of security and feels a bit like Bob Denver from “Gilligan’s Island.” (Wait, who? Exactly. Gilligan.)

When was the last time you saw a chief security officer become CEO? Security folks are the football offensive linemen of today’s world. They only make a name for themselves when something is wrong. So, from U.S. News & World Report’s top 100 jobs, we can knock off a quarter of the top 20 prospects.

These professions aren’t what they used to be

Back to the traditional ideas. Pilot? No way. Did you hear Sully Sullenberger’s tale of packing lunches for the cockpit because airlines overcharge pilots for meals? That’s what you get for saving 155 souls in a landing on the Hudson River.

Doctor? Well, specialist, maybe. But doctors spend more time filling out forms than examining patients nowadays. The doctor-patient relationship has been decimated by insurance (that is, many people hate doctors now). And my brother will tell you, thanks to the way Medicare and insurance payments often work, many doctors earn less every year, a phenomenon that grows worse as doctors become more experienced (and try to start their own families).

Lawyer? Enough said. We could close all the law schools today and still have a glut in the profession for the next 10 years.

Professor? You’re kidding, right? All the out-of-work lawyers are gunning for the occasional adjunct opening.

Yes, there are still jobs, and there are growing professions, such as dental hygienist and veterinarian. But it was alarming for me to look around the table and see such large question marks in the eyes of these parents. Which way do you nudge your kids to avoid the fate of so many millennials today: saddled with six-figure student loans, with no jobs or health insurance?

This spring, we will graduate another 1.5 million or so college kids, and the reality facing them is stark: A study released in 2013 showed that only 6 in 10 Americans under 30 were working, and half of them were working part time. Nearly 60 percent in that age group had attended college. Makes those college degrees, and those student loans, seem a little sketchy, no?

Where will you nudge your children in the hope that they have a decent chance at a decent life after college?

More from Bob Sullivan:

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
Half of All Retirees Say They Fear This
Half of All Retirees Say They Fear This

Chances are good that you share this fear. Here’s a way to overcome it.

15 Free Streaming Services to Watch While Stuck at Home
15 Free Streaming Services to Watch While Stuck at Home

These free movie streaming sites offer thousands of movies and TV shows, including recent releases and beloved classics. If you love free movies, online sites are where you need to look for the best list of features that are just one easy click away.

Why Half of Retirees Now Owe Taxes on Social Security
Why Half of Retirees Now Owe Taxes on Social Security

Growing numbers of seniors are paying taxes on their Social Security benefits, but you might be able to avoid this fate.

10 Common Ways Seniors Get Scammed
10 Common Ways Seniors Get Scammed

Here’s what to watch for to make sure you don’t fall prey to some of the biggest rip-offs targeting seniors.

How to Avoid Being Surprised by 7 Nasty Expenses
How to Avoid Being Surprised by 7 Nasty Expenses

Major expenses are difficult to predict, but there are ways to make sure you’re protected.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

Whether you resell it for a big profit or add it to your own wardrobe, this type of clothing is a hidden steal.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds
Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds

Resolve to be clutter-free in 2021 with these secondhand purchases.

11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It
11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It

Seriously? Fibbing about the weather is a crime? This and other little-known legal traps await the unwary.

Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?
Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?

Researchers say too many doctors are overlooking this potential source of hypertension.

13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free
13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free

There are many ways to get cheap or free services and goods after reaching a certain age.

These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy
These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy

These vehicles boast reliability, safety and long-lasting value.

Taking a Multivitamin? Here’s Why You Should Reconsider
Taking a Multivitamin? Here’s Why You Should Reconsider

A new study has bad news for the millions of Americans who spend money on multivitamins.

This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia
This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia

Nearly half of U.S. residents may face this threat.

21 Items to Cut From Your Budget That You Won’t Even Miss
21 Items to Cut From Your Budget That You Won’t Even Miss

Start off the new year by implementing these small-but-smart savings strategies. They’ll soon add up.

This Is America’s New Favorite Grocery Store
This Is America’s New Favorite Grocery Store

Consumers say a familiar name has become their go-to source of grocery items.

Does Wearing 2 Masks Protect You Better From COVID-19?
Does Wearing 2 Masks Protect You Better From COVID-19?

A growing number of people are wearing two masks instead of just one. Should you join them?

Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore
Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore

Starting this month, your ISP no longer can bill you for this fee.

15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021
15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021

Follow these tips to save, so you’ll have money for things that really matter.

10 Cars You Are Most Likely to Keep for 15 Years
10 Cars You Are Most Likely to Keep for 15 Years

The cars that owners hold onto the longest have one thing in common, a new study shows.

Prepare to Pay More for These 31 Drugs in 2021
Prepare to Pay More for These 31 Drugs in 2021

More than 700 prescription medications have seen price hikes so far this year. Here’s a look at the worst.

The 10 Golden Rules of Becoming a Millionaire
The 10 Golden Rules of Becoming a Millionaire

I’m a millionaire several times over. I got here the same way you can — by following these simple steps.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.