06/28/2012 04:46 EDT | Updated 08/26/2012 05:12 EDT

Help Your Child Be Productive Over the Summer


So, summer is coming quickly and as a parent that means one thing: your kids are about to veg out for two months playing video games, staying up late and becoming the "unwanted house-guest from hell."

How do you turn that situation into one that will have a profound effect on their future employability?

Let's start with the history of jobs. (the non-apple type)

For most of the last 100 years, school and work have operated the same way; you studied, you trained for a job and then you worked at one place until you retired. But people who will be entering the job market in 2020 will probably have at least seven major employment changes in their lives. There will be new jobs in fields yet to exist and old jobs re-imagined, changing the landscape of how we work and live. The question becomes: How can today's teenager prepare for this uncertain future? I say go renaissance on the world.

The Renaissance period came after the Dark Ages and the plague (not fun times) and influenced literature, philosophy, art, politics, science, religion and most aspects of western culture. It employed a humanist method of study that focused on "the unique and extraordinary ability of the human mind.

The more a young adult in today's world widens their horizons, the richer their lives and greater their prospects will become. Summer is the perfect opportunity for this through the experience of volunteering. One of my clients bristles when I use the word "volunteer," seeing it as merely "working for nothing" (e.g. where's the money?!?!).

Here is a different way to view volunteer work: Try and get a job without experience or training at the zoo and you will probably end up scraping bird-poop off the glass enclosures. Volunteer at the zoo and you may have a chance to be up-close-and-personal with the animals. Learning things few people get a chance to learn.

This is where one of my most favorite books comes into play: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I still read this book once a year and have found it immensely useful in getting my clients through many closed doors and getting them the volunteer positions they wanted. Read this book!

Picking the proper area to volunteer in is a fairly easy exercise once you know how. As Joseph Campbell said: "Follow your bliss."

First choice should be something you know tons about just because you love it; animals, reptiles, stamp collecting, rock climbing, motorcycle repair, gardening ... whatever you love; if you know all about it, take advantage of that knowledge to volunteer with people who do it for a living and see your passion through a professional's eyes.

Second choice could be something you were always curious about. If you have great people skills or sales skills or are good with your hands, there are all sorts of organizations that can use those skills over the summer in a volunteer position.

Saving the best for last: Work with a pet shelter, a homeless shelter, a food shelter, a summer camp for at-risk youth or one of the many organizations that help Third World countries. Your life will never be the same.

Volunteering: Widening your circle of knowledge and people. Learning how different people who are passionate about their lives work and making a difference in the world. These "summer jobs" are the beginning of becoming a renaissance person in the 21st century and there is no price that can be put on that.

How will this help your child this summer? By giving them a meaningful way to see the world beyond school and to begin making a place for themselves in the world. (But don't expect the video gaming to just disappear)

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