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Change your life and career

Could your teenagers' annoying characteristics actually be assets for their careers?

By Mary Andrews
Friday, September 25, 2020

Looking at the positive side of five of the most irritating traits

If you’re like most of my clients, you probably find yourself complaining about your teenagers’ annoying characteristics and wonder how they will ever survive beyond school and college when you’re not on hand to help them. Maybe you get irritated when it’s midnight and they suddenly remember they need something washing for the next day. Or frustrated at the amount of time they spend on their technology directing only grunts your way. And what about the argumentative ones that leave you exhausted trying to get them to do something?

Yet in my experience of helping the parents of teenagers sort out their study and career choices, I’ve found that some of these characteristics can actually develop into strengths. For example, the one you see as:

Last minute and disorganised could develop into someone who is adaptable, flexible and adept at handling and responding to sudden and unexpected changes in plans and requirements. This can be a true attribute in today’s working environments where constant and unpredictable change and shifting boundaries seem to be the order of the day. It can also be useful in jobs such as the police, paramedics, logistics and distribution where someone else organises you overall but you have to deal with whatever situation comes up.

Sensitive and easily upset; well they may not be best placed for handling the stress of multi-million deals or closing down retail outlets and making hundreds of people redundant but where would we be if the world was only populated by ‘cool-as-a-cucumber stoics’? Sure, keeping your head in a crisis is a useful attribute, as is a focus on material and objective considerations, especially for commercial decisions but so too is the ability to be empathetic, “to climb into another person’s skin and walk around in it”, as the character Atticus famously said in “To Kill A Mockingbird”.

So, your sensitive and caring teens will be needed for their compassion and their potential for seeing things from other people’s perspectives – obviously useful for the caring professions like therapy and nursing but with appropriate training, sensitivity and being attuned to others can also prove vital in negotiation, customer services, marketing and business development.

A dreamer, head-in-the-clouds; “no attention to detail”, “nothing gets done”, “not at all practical” the school reports say. Yet often your dreamers can be imaginative, insightful, good at coming up with ideas and handy when you need a strategy developed. So maybe they should be heading for careers where they deal with ideas and possibilities. Business and social policy development, strategy development, planning and communications could all draw on the intellectual creativity offered.

If they are also directly creative, as one of my recent clients was, they may make good product developers or designers.

Pedantic, moany and critical; can your super fussy offspring have a positive side? Yes, of course! So many areas require a hyper-critical approach and attention to detail. For example, one of my clients realised that her ‘fussy’ son was an ideal candidate to go into quantity surveying. Other possible areas for this type include contracts, compliance processes and procedures, quality control and many forms of engineering.

Bossy and stubborn, and often insistent on having their own way, these guys can drive us to despair. Yet knowing your own mind, having the confidence to take responsibility and lead, delegate and make things happen are fantastic leadership characteristics that we should cherish and celebrate.

In conclusion, just as our own ‘good’ characteristics can have a downside at times, in reverse our teenagers’ irritating habits could be the key to a successful career. So, when you next find yourself exasperated about the problematic aspects of your teenagers’ personality, don’t despair for their future. There’s a career path that fits every kind of teen if you know where to look.


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