It is that time of year again in much of the Northern Hemisphere: exams, graduations, next course and then… what? Year by year, your child moves inevitably towards the end of the educational conveyor belt. What happens when they reach the end? You don’t want to hear just a dull “clunk” as they tip over the edge.

So how do we help our kids find their way, through education and out into a career? I am writing this from Singapore, and there are a couple of models we hear of regularly here which I wouldn’t recommend: the helicopter parent (always hovering, mostly to prevent anything happening to their child; unfortunately this tends to stop the everyday good as well as the unthinkably bad) and the tiger parent (usually “tiger Mother”, fierce with and on behalf of their child, determined to achieve world-class success, regardless of their child’s interests or desires). To which we could also add, the “sorry-I-was-too-busy-doing-my-job-and-earning-a-better-life-for-you-to-notice-you” parent. As I learnt the hard way, it doesn’t matter whether or not you recognise yourself in that description: it is your child who actually assesses your status on this one.

There are thousands of books out there about what you could / should / shouldn’t have done as a parent, so instead let me tell you one of the biggest challenges your child has (if they are anything under their mid-twenties). It is this:

Your child doesn’t actually know what she or he wants.

If you think about it, that is actually a bit of a killer when it comes to giving careers advice. It also explains why most careers tools, so-called, are such a waste of time and money: they are asking questions to which they will only receive unreliable answers.

The reason for this is simple enough. The teenage and early adult years are not only characterised by massive changes in the wiring of the brain (usually occurring around 13-16 and analogous to what happens during the “terrible twos / threes”) but more especially, they mark the high point in the process of socialisation. Socialisation is fundamentally about understanding “what people expect of me” and result eventually in a pattern of behaviour emerging which we can understand as “what I expect of myself”.

So far, so good. Unfortunately, “what others expect of me” and “what I expect of myself” have very little relationship with “what really matters to me or will keep me engaged and motivated”. And it is that – what matters and what motivates – that actually counts when building a sustainable long-term career. Teenagers and young adults are so aware of “what others expect of me” that they are even worse than the rest of us at articulating what matters and motivates. (And believe me, none of us are very good at that anyway).

Now before the helicopters and tigers pile in and say, “I knew it! I know better than you what you should do with your life!”, let me add that as parents, we are more likely to try sending our children down a path we wish we had taken ourselves, than a path that matters to our child. (Sometimes you get lucky and the two coincide; but not often enough to make it a good call.)

So what to do?

My wife and I were very exercised by this, the more so as we worked professionally with top executives helping them understand these very same issues for themselves. Looking around our (fairly deprived) neighbourhood in the UK, we could see the need amongst young people, but not the ability to afford the help required. In the end, we found a way to package the enterprise-class tool we used with organisations, as a mobile app and at just 5% of the usual cost. And that is how hoozyu came about.

hoozyu is designed to help you and your child answer three big questions, (and yes, I do mean that you should do hoozyu too, as well as your child; understanding the differences between what matters to you and what matters to them will transform your relationship, as well as your ability to help them chart a course). The really clever thing (and everlasting thanks to the late Dr Roger Birkman, whose work this is based on) is that you won’t actually realise that you are answering these questions, so will be more honest and accurate than if we asked you straight out.

Those questions are:

  • what is going to keep me energised and engaged (in other words, where are my intrinsic motivators)
  • what is going to keep me in the zone and off the ceiling (what do I need in order to stay productive and out of stress or reactive mode)
  • what are my options for course and career (we don’t get at all prescriptive about this; we just give you a list of the roles you resemble most closely, and encourage you to pick the ones you like the look of for your menu of options)

If you know the answers to those three questions, you are well on the way to being able to map a course for yourself (or your child).