Parenting: Corporate Kids

The Walt Disney Company Corporate Headquarters in Burbank, California.
When picking a career, should kids go corporate? David Murphy leads the debate.
October 24, 2012 8:03:27 AM PDT
Parents with kids in high school or college who are already thinking about future careers have a lot on their plate. With the economy still climbing out of a five year slump, the questions parents and children are asking revolve not only around what feels right or fun as a line of work, but what's practical. Many an article has been written in the last year about college graduates whose majors are not netting jobs. Now more than ever, the thought of your kid becoming an entrepreneur sounds scary if you're the average parent, with bright ideas more likely to flame out nowadays versus better times when customers and bank loans are more plentiful.

Sometimes, the issue takes care of itself. Kids who have inroads to a family business or who've learned a trade reasonably well as youngsters may already have an inside track on a secure future. And students with a certain outstanding skill may be so desired by a particular college that they get a free or reduced tuition package which can remove an enormous amount of pressure in terms of accrued debt, even if there aren't a whole lot of obvious jobs out there at the end of the curriculum (see, B.A. in 16th Century French Art History).

But for many families, helping children toward a career choice involves a slippery slope with no clearly understood outcome. Fold in the dilemma of health care costs these days and it gets even slipperier. As of this date, the future of our nation's health care system seems very much up in the air. Will we wind-up with some sort of affordable, dependable medical insurance for all, or will costs continue to soar as no good political solutions are agreed upon?

Under the big umbrella

Few children grow-up thinking, "Hey, I want to work for a corporation some day!" Dreams are usually formed around the occupation, not the potential employer. But while kids are dreaming, it might be smart to consider their future work environment and whether toiling for someone else is something that should be looked at. In the current climate, there are things to be said about being under the umbrella of a large organization that does most of the worrying about profits and losses, expenses and gains, and leaves the individual employee to fill the role of, well, employee.

Of course, many a small business person or independent contractor will tell you that there's nothing like the feeling of building and maintaining a business. That sink or swim spirit is at the root of national culture here in the United States and the feeling of satisfaction when it comes to anything self-made is indeed unique. But it's also possible to exercise one's creativity within a corporate structure and there's also something to be said for being part of something large and successful. Perhaps more important to some people is the security offered by corporate perks like professionally-managed 401k plans and pensions or profit sharing (where those things still exist), not to mention health, dental, vision and insurance plans under the current health care structure, which are varied and automatically included in the compensation package. As evidence, I point to a recent government study suggesting that millions of older Americans would retire tomorrow were it not for the health benefits provided by their employers; they simply don't want to risk life on their own.

Fun and games

Corporations also usually offer unique perks germane to the work being done. Here at 6abc, for example, Disney offers employees and their families free admission to any of the company's theme parks worldwide, plus steep discounts on Disney hotels, food and gift shop items. As a result, my kids are big fans of the corporate life---and why not? They've been to Disney World nearly every year of their lives, because it's so inexpensive for us.

Of course, there are arguments to be made against being a corporate-bound kid. You are very much at the mercy of corporate rules, regulations, hiring trends, possible buy-outs and changes in corporate policy or atmosphere, as well as benefit alterations. You are, by definition, a much smaller fish in a much larger pond, especially at a major company with tens of thousands of employees, and it's impossible to foresee when a change in business culture or climate might come sailing along and hook you right out of the water.

But as for the basic worries---for example, whether the company will remain solvent and your kid keeps the job, or whether they'll be happy with the people they're working for and with---it's only a slightly different angle on the same worry that anyone has, whether or not they're their own boss. As the economy and consumer trends ebb and flow, we all roll with the punches, no matter who signs the paycheck.

It's a worthy discussion to have with your older children as they begin choosing their path in life.

---David Murphy

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