Taking Your Daughter Or Son To Work Tomorrow? Better Think Twice

Tomorrow is Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work day and if you are thinking about participating (either for yourself or overall as an employer), I would encourage you to consider alternatives to the program.

In the past when I’ve talked about the issue, I’ve been accused of being a kid hater. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Of course, kids can be an obnoxious liability when added uncontrolled in the work environment, but I do think children deserve an opportunity to learn about the types of careers that are available at an early age. It should be done in a way that actually accomplishes the goals of the program too.

What I’ve seen from most executions of the program though are bored kids, unproductive parents, and an opportunity sorely missed. And if we can’t do better than that, then we shouldn’t do anything at all.

Origins of the day

The day first started when I was in school as Take Your Daughter to Work day. It was a way to expose girls and young women to career opportunities that they might not normally learn about. Given that there was some controversy about only allowing daughters to participate, the program was eventually expanded to include sons as well.

I went to two of these days as a teen-ager: one with my mom (a legal assistant at a law firm at the time) and one with my step-dad (a regional manager of a video chain). I was bored out of my mind at my mom’s workplace. Even if I had interest in the law, there was no way to learn about it there because the matters were too confidential. I practiced typing on a spare computer and helped put together manila folders for filing.

My step-dad’s workplace was more interesting but for all of the wrong reasons. They had video game systems in many of the stores at the time and we got to drive around to different places. The only thing I did that was close to work related was going through the racks and making sure everything was in alphabetical order. When I later worked there as a teen-ager during school, I was amazed to find that the job was even more boring than before.

Organizing Take Your Child To Work Day

When I became an HR professional and people started asking about bringing their children to work, I remembered the experience I had when I was a kid. My argument always was that if we truly believed that it was a program worth supporting, then we should really put together a customized program that exposed the children to many different aspects of the business.

In my years of working on the program, we did the organized thing once and it worked out fairly well. The kids spent about 15-30 minutes in every department, a person was appointed to speak to the children and answer any questions, and they did a short activity while there. After they went through all of the departments, they could pick one area to go back to after a lunch with their parents for a bit more intensive experience.

On the other occasions, we had an unorganized event that went about as well as could be expected. The kids were bored, the parents were busy worrying about their kids, and the opportunity and promise that the event held was surely missed. In the post mortem of the event, I advocated that we either do something real or do nothing at all. When we did nothing, it was unpopular to a few folks but a majority appreciated it in light of the unorganized events they had seen in the past.

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Consider some alternatives

While the take your child to work day is a good idea, I think there are some other ideas that can be even better at achieving the end goal of educating children about career opportunities.

One of the problems with the program is the limitation to children of employees. While that bonding time with the parent is good, it also limits the opportunities that kids have to explore career possibilities.

I didn’t want to follow in any of my parents footsteps and didn’t have many resources to explore career possibilities until late high school and college. Employers should be partnering up with schools to do everything from tours (for younger children) to hands-on, one-on-one experiences (for older ones) with those who are interested in the field.

Partnering with high school-based vocational programs is another opportunity that goes beyond taking a child to work. For example, the vocational program in my area has spent years building partnerships with local businesses and giving them opportunities.

And if exposing children to career paths outside of typical gender roles is the goal, a more targeted program can be even more successful. At a previous job, we had work days coordinated with local schools and churches that sought to bring in those from outside our typical employee profile and have someone on hand to talk about the job that they can better relate too.

In all three of these instances, the children were incredibly engaged with the program and it felt like a better use of resources than a day simply devoted to bringing your child to work. If you are considering starting, continuing or spending more time on a take your child to work program, I would encourage you to explore better alternatives to the program first before jumping in with both feet.

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3 Comments on “Taking Your Daughter Or Son To Work Tomorrow? Better Think Twice

  1. Thanks for an interesting post Lance. I can imagine that without some thought and planning these well intended days can become borefests very quickly. I helped run one for a customer two weeks ago and my wife suggested – however many activities and ideas you think you’ll need, double it and add some. In the end we had a lot of fun. The CEO joined us for the intro session and helped the kids get a handle on what goes on in this particular workplace. Through the day we devised an investment strategy, and got out and about to see local history which we managed to relate to work. We redesigned the company logo and the kids had a board meeting on what makes work more interesting. You can see some of their good work here if you and your readers would like to take a look:

    http://stopdoingdumbthingstocustomers.com/learning/dreams-of-children/

    In summary I believe these days can be great fun and great learning if you let your imagination flow.

  2. This is a annual, much anticipated event in my company. We have 31 kids here today. We limit the age range for participation to 8 to 18. We plan a full day of activities related to the prevailing theme. Last year was environmental sustainability and this year it is innovation. Logistics are managed by a team of employee volunteers, and the CEO always does a welcome to the group. We try to make it both fun and educational. This is our fourth year offering the program. If your company is going to do this, I recommend investing the time and planning to make it a good experiene for everyone. Both kids and parents love it.

    1. sounds good Mary and I think you are right in that time and planning (and might I add involving the kids in that planning if you can?) can make for a useful fun day. The day I helped to run just recently has led to the kids having some direct input to internal communications strategy and plans, worth it? I’ll say! I’m glad you and yours manage to make a success of the opportunity.

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