This article was originally posted on Forbes.com.
You’ve bought them an iPad. You’ve crammed their backpacks with supplies. You’ve re-booted the morning routine. But for parents of kids in middle school and high school, back-to-school should also mean instilling a few career habits that will last a lifetime. In this post I share some activities that will be helpful to your kids now in their school years and will easily transfer to a job site once they enter the world of work.
1. Document your wins. When you’re in the working world, annual reviews are inevitable, and to ace that review you need to be clear about what you accomplished over the year. The business world is moving so fast, it’s hard for any of us to remember what we did last month, let alone at the start of the year. One tool I use with my clients is the wins worksheet. It’s a PDF that allows them to track their success and store it for future reference, all in one place. I tell my clients to do this at least weekly – but daily if possible. It just takes a few seconds to record something you accomplished, and the accomplishments don’t need to be major. Include things like “discovered how to use a new MS PowerPoint transition” or “came up with a solution no one else in my group had thought of.” Getting into this habit will not only help your kids when they have to tackle the performance review cycle, but also it will help them stop for a moment and acknowledge their accomplishments.
2. Acknowledge others. One of the best ways to build relationships in the business world is to express gratitude and overtly acknowledge others. That means sending a note of thanks to a colleague for their contributions to your presentation, or thanking your boss in front of the team for the leadership she provided, or letting your peer’s boss know what an amazing job he did on the last project. Giving thanks is a powerful way to strengthen bonds – and it usually makes you feel good too. Encourage your kids to adopt this mindset. They can thank their teacher for being a patient and thorough explainer, or thank the custodian for always keeping the lunchroom clean, or thank their fellow students for their contributions to a class project. Regularly expressing thanks is as powerful as it is simple.
3. Mentor and/or reverse mentor. Being a mentor at the office is both rewarding and revealing. Getting your kids to mentor those who aren’t as quick with math or who need some help with their baseball pitch is a good way of showing them the importance of giving to those around them, and it can help them discover their own talents. This reminds them they have something valuable to offer. It’s a great confidence booster. Reverse mentoring, in which a junior-level employee helps train a supervisor (in anything from social media to software), is especially powerful for employees early in their career because it gives them the opportunity to interact with people more senior to them. Give your kids the permission to reverse mentor their teacher or coach.
4. Communicate. Relationships are the currency of business, and communication is the key to building successful relationships. The time to build excellent communications skills is while you’re young. And that means mastering ALL forms of communication. In a world where your kids use texting more than any other form of communication, encouraging them to flex their muscles on the other forms will do wonders for their future careers. Volunteering to speak in front of the classroom will prepare them for presentations and pitches in the workplace. Using video conferencing tools to connect with Grandma will show them the power of keeping up with new communications tools – making meaningful connections when you can’t be there in person.
William Arruda is the cofounder of CareerBlast and creator of Ace Your Annual Review, a proven system to help you ace your performance review and get promoted faster.