What shall we tell the children?

Last month I wrote a blog called “You are the Future,” looking at how the qualities needed to run your own business were exactly those that are now highly sought-after in the increasingly fragile jobs market. One of the comments was from Nick Eggleton, who said, “Do you take a job – or make a job?”

Andy Gambles posed an interesting question about job security. Whose job is more secure? Mine, running my own business? Or the guy in the bank trying to flog me an income protection policy?

I was thinking about that blog when I was in the pub on Friday night – which is quite possibly a sign that I need to get out more… Two women at the next table were having a conversation which I couldn’t help overhearing. Both of them had children who (hopefully) were going to university next year.

“He wants to be a trader in a bank,” one of them said. “But I don’t know. I want him to do engineering.”

“Well, you’re never out of work if you’re an engineer. My friend’s brother – he’s an engineer; he’s done ever so well. He does tunnels…”

“I just don’t want to worry about him…”

The conversation went on in a similar vein for five minutes. What did they want for their children? Above all else – security. (And maybe she was right. Over the next 20 years I suspect engineering will wipe the floor with banking in the job security stakes.)

But supposing the respective children had said they wanted to study law? I bet the Mums would have been delighted. After all, there’s nothing as secure as being a solicitor. All that fat, juicy probate work. Conveyancing… And people will always be getting divorced. Yep, if you want security for your kids, nothing beats law.

Until, of course, you read a recent headline in the Times. ‘Perfect storm spells end of high street solicitor.’ The Legal Services Act has come into force: simply put, you no longer need to be legally qualified to own a law firm. Does this mean you could get your conveyancing done by TescoLaw? Your parents’ estate sorted out by CoOpLaw? Yes, it does. And the implications for the high street solicitor are immense. Ten years from now – possibly less – am I going to be able to log on to say, TescoLaw.com and have a conversation with the avatar that most appeals to me? Very possibly.


Are accountants going to be immune to the ‘wind of change?’ I doubt it. I doubt that many people in the service industries are going to be safe. In fact, I think the wheel might be turning full circle: if you don’t make something, or create something, I think you could be in trouble. Which brings us back to the conversation in the pub – and to Nick and Andy.

If the only real job security is running your own business, is that what the women in the pub should have told their children? “Get out there and start your own business?”

And that’s the real question: what should we tell our children? Nine years from now my eldest son will be wrestling with his UCAS form. What do I say? Do I hold up the example of hopeless college drop outs like Zuckerberg, Jobs and Gates? Or do I arrange two week’s work experience with a local solicitor and tell him it’s a job for life?

Or do I tell him to do what he loves? Maybe Steve Jobs’ greatest legacy isn’t Apple or the iPhone. Maybe it’s one simple statement: “the way to do great work is to do a job that you love.”

And if that’s running your own business, my son – go for it.


One comment

  1. Jon Pittham · October 21, 2011

    Great blog Ed. Great to be building that entrepreneurial spirit in our kids…

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