Many entrepreneurs started down their respective career paths as preteens or teenagers. In fact, the nature of child-labor laws in this country force most kids under the age of 15 who want to work, to work for themselves doing things such as mowing lawns, washing cars, babysitting, selling baked goods or any number of other age-appropriate activities.
Those early forays on the fringe of the workforce may convince young entrepreneurs that they want to be self-employed for the rest of their lives but taking the next steps can be challenging. That's especially true if the kids don't have entrepreneurial family members or friends they can learn from, or if the adolescents don't really know what they want to do as a career. Honestly, there are many adults who are in the same boat.
A friend and I were recently talking over dinner about our preteen/teenage kids and their plans for the future -- or lack there of. He mentioned that both his kids had a great experience and successfully focused on their future careers after participating in a national, not-for-profit program called Exploring.
While the program is loosely-affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America it's a coed, career-based initiative aimed at helping young people 14 to 20 years of age channel their passions, interests and skills into a rewarding lifelong profession.
"The program teaches important life and career skills to youth of all backgrounds," said Eric Israel, executive for an Exploring chapter in the Northeast. "We do it through immersive experiences and mentoring provided by community and business leaders -- such as readers of Entrepreneur. We create confidence, provide experiences and instill life skills that young people can use both today and in their future."
Not only does the program benefit young adults by exposing them to diverse workplace settings; invaluable professional networking; supplemental real-world educational experiences as well as scholarship opportunities to help minimize false starts in college or careers -- the Exploring program benefits current entrepreneurs as well.
"Sponsoring an Exploring post is a great way to cultivate future employees for your organization, while preparing these young adults for the transition from school to work," said Israel. "Additionally, the Exploring program offers your current employees free mentoring and developmental opportunities -- benefiting entrepreneurs at every level."
There are a dozen "career clusters" with Exploring offerings of eight to 10 sessions covering areas that include: arts and humanities, aviation, engineering, legal services, skilled trades and healthcare. Personally, I plan on enrolling my 14-year-old daughter in both the legal and drama clusters respectively. The total cost of each local course is less than $100 -- which is an investment and inoculation against changes in her major when she attends college.
If you have a teenager or know a young person who has the entrepreneurial itch, start the discussion with them by having them take a free career survey -- who knows, the Exploring program might be the catalyst for successfully launching your child's future career or taking your own business to the next level.