Broaden the Appeal: There Are Many Good (But Not Sexy) Jobs Out There

Recently my wife commented on how much time I was spending watching the 2014 NFL Draft coverage on ESPN.

You’re a Broncos fan. They don’t pick again for at least an hour, at least. Are you really that fascinated by who Buffalo selects in the 5th round?” she asked.

But there I sat along with 45.7 million other football fanatics glued to the tube for the third consecutive day of ESPN’s round-the-clock, nonstop coverage of this ridiculously uneventful event.

Instead of being ashamed, I should take pride. After all, I am an American, and America is No. 1!

An overwhelming focus on entertainment

We are the runaway, undisputed, world-class leaders in all things entertainment-related.

When we’re not watching Monday Night Football, the All Star Game, the Stanley Cup playoffs, Wimbledon, the Masters, the X-Games, or the gold medal ceremony for synchronized swimming in the Summer Olympics, we’re watching the Oscars, Emmys, Grammys, CMA’s, and VMA’s.

And when we’re not passively watching sports and award shows, we’re texting our votes for who we think should win The Voice, America’s Got Talent, So You Think You Can Dance? X Factor, American Idol, Last Comic Standing, Dancing With the Stars, etc.

Stars in their eyes

The resounding message for anyone coming of age in today’s 24/7/365 entertainment-saturated world is crystal clear and stunningly profound: If you can’t become a movie star, rock star, sports star, or even a reality show star, you’re going to have to get a real job and be forced to live among the working class — and who wants to actually work for a living?

A survey quoted in a recent article in Time magazine pointed out that three times as many middle school girls want to grow up to be a personal assistant to a famous person as want to be a U.S. Senator; four times as many of them would pick the assistant job over being a CEO of a major company.

It’s a sad commentary when America is grooming youth who are so enamored with celebrity that they’d choose serving one over being a top-level leader in any field that’s not entertainment-related.

Yes, good but non-sexy jobs ARE available

And it’s not just pre-pubescent girls. When was the last time you heard of a teenager that aspired to be a welder on a pipeline in North Dakota? Or a precision carbide machinist in Saginaw? Or a plastic lathe operator for an aerospace contractor in Baton Rouge?

Those kinds of jobs are plentiful, they pay extremely high wages, and they don’t require a four-year degree that often comes packaged with $50K in student loans. The problem with these kinds of jobs in construction and manufacturing is, quite frankly, they aren’t “sexy.”

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The dichotomy that exists between the excellent jobs that are available in non-sexy fields and what today’s young Americans have been conditioned to believe they are entitled to is astounding. Until that gap narrows, we will continue to hear the loud grumblings of employers who are less than thrilled with the labor pool, and those disenfranchised young workers who comprise it and feel deserving of a job and a title that will impress their peers.

Thinking about the opportunities

On Point for parents and grads –– Having spoken for dozens of manufacturing-related national trade associations over the past 18 months, I can say with complete certainty that the future is extremely bright for any student who is sharp, self-motivated, and is willing to forgo a sexy job title in exchange for a solid, high paying career in a booming industry offering unlimited opportunities for advancement.

A lot of these jobs are very high-tech and remarkably cool! Visit TheManuafacturingInstitute.org and do some homework. It’s worth your time.

On point for employers — Face the facts: you aren’t going to convince a Millennial that a job in manufacturing is as appealing as being a rock star or the next LeBron James. But it doesn’t have to be that appealing.

You simply need to search for opportunities to expose the teens in your community to the jobs and opportunities that exist within your company and/or industry. Get them thinking about how cool it is to make things with their hands when they are still in school. Support SkillsUSA and any industrial arts programs that are being taught in your school system.

The sooner in a kid’s education you can reach them, the better your odds will be to opening their minds to a promising and rewarding career in your industry.

This was originally published on Eric Chester’s blog Chester on Point

Eric Chester is a leading voice in the global dialogue on employee engagement, and building a world-class workplace culture. He's an in-the-trenches researcher on the topic of the millennial mindset, and the dynamics of attracting, managing, motivating and retaining top talent. Chester is a Hall-of-Fame keynote speaker and the author of 4 leadership books including his newly released Amazon #1 Bestseller On Fire at Work: How Great Companies Ignite Passion in their People without Burning Them Out.  Learn more at EricChester.com and follow him at @eric_chester

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