This Thursday is Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, and as a career coach, I have to say it's one of the best things you can do with your kids, grandkids or other young people in your life.
The goal of the day is to educate about the wealth of job possibilities out there, to give a flavor of the realities of work, and to give them a first-hand peek at what the adults in their lives actually do at work.
Take Your Daughters to Work Day was founded in 1993 by the Ms. Foundation for Women, a nonprofit with a vision of equality and possibility for all.
The program was created give teenage girls exposure to career options and build self-confidence and self-esteem, and in 2003, the program expanded to include boys as well.
In 2007, Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day transitioned to its own nonprofit foundation.
Today, more than 37 million participants from 3.5 million organizations and workplaces across the country take part in Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.
Done right, that is a whole lot of good career exposure happening.
The day is meant to be a learning experience and career exploration.
Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day is designed as a learning experience, not a play day or a sit-over-here-and-color-while-Mom-works day (they probably get enough of that already).
The focus is on career exploration and understanding how companies work. Many companies organize the day with workshops, games and group activities that relate to the company's business.
If your company has a formal program, join it. If not, you can create your own plan, perhaps with a guided tour of the workplace and, conversations with different departments.
Plan ahead for what will mean the most to the child.
Either way, put some thought into the day ahead of time. Prepare to talk about what you really do, and think about what your young person will most want to learn.
Find ways for your child to do things hands-on. Young children can help sort files, and older ones might be able to do some work on the computer. They'll be much more engaged by doing things rather than just being told about them.
If your child has special interests, see if you can arrange something tailored to them. For instance, if your daughter loves to draw on the computer, you could arrange for her to shadow the web designer for a while, and if your neighbor's son builds forts in the back yard, he might like to spend some time learning what a civil engineer actually does.
Who can participate?
Working parents with a child from 8 to 18 (the recommended age group) are clear choices, but there is no reason not to bring a granddaughter or grandson, and if don't have a family member of the right age, you can be a mentor to another child.
Many workplaces also bring in children from the local Big Brothers/Big Sisters, community centers or housing authority.
Talk to your workplace about their plans.
Many larger companies have formal programs (though economic cutbacks may have also trimmed Take Your Daughter and Son to Work Day budgets).
If not, and you need to plan it yourself, DaughtersandSonstoWork.org has a Coordinator's Toolkit that will tell you everything you need to know.
Make sure to get permission from your employer.
Even though 3.5 million workplaces take part, not all companies are enthusiastic about having the children in the workplace.
In 2010, Check 'n Go employee Qwedra Evans was fired from her job of 11 years for bringing her daughter to work because it broke a rule about having family members in restricted areas (even though she said she'd done it in previous years with no problem).
A spokesperson for the Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Foundation said it was the first time they'd ever heard of anyone being fired, but just to be safe, make sure you have official approval before taking your child to work.
Talk to the school ahead of time.
If you plan to bring your son or daughter to work, contact your child's school and teacher to let them know your child will be absent.
Ask for any homework in advance, and if possible, incorporate it in their activities during the day.
Most schools will require a letter on company letterhead afterwards, confirming your child went to work with you, in order to excuse the absence.
Not all schools participate, so make sure or your child's absence might not be excused.
Some schools also use the day to create special programs at school about careers and other planned activities in the spirit of the day for the kids who aren't going to a workplace.
The benefits of bringing girls and boys into a real workplace are many.
Talk to your child to prepare them for the day.
Don't lose sight of the fact that the intention for the day is to get your child to understand more about work options and be thinking about their career.
Talk to them about what you do at work and see which things are most interesting to them.
Keep in mind that one of the most common complaints of coworkers is badly behaved children, so prepare your young people about office etiquette, appropriate behavior and attire, and how they can expect the day to go.
Self-employed parents can participate, too.
Even work-from-home parents can participate in Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.
Let your young people shadow you as you share what you do, and talk to them share what they want to try and to learn about.
You will need to invest a little time into planning the time so your child gets something out of it, or you might end up like blogger Penelope Trunk, who hadn't prepared and who ended up plopping her son down with cookies, a white board and some magic markers in her empty office, which he wisely proclaimed boring.
Don't get caught with a bored kid. Outline some activities you both will enjoy doing together instead.
Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day can be a great experience for everyone, and leave the girls and boys in your life inspired, entertained and one step closer to seeing the career direction they want to take.
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