Best Kids’ Books about Jobs and Career Exploration
As a parent and career coach, I often get asked to give book recommendations for kids’ books about jobs and careers. Illustrated books are a great way to introduce children to the concept of career exploration and using their strengths and gifting to find a future job.
Top Career Books for Kids
1. Lola Dutch, When I Grow Up by sarah jane wright
- As a parent of little girls, I love the bubbly, creative and whimsical “Lola” character. She reminds me a lot of my oldest daughter, who is constantly “bursting with ideas.” The reason I love this particular book is that the author encourages kids to learn everything they can. That being a kid is about exploration vs. committing to a path.
2. When I Grow Up by “Weird Al” Yankovic
- The little boy in this book gets asked by his teacher what he wants to be when he grows up. Excitedly, he raised both hands and gave a monologue of ALL of the jobs he wants to do. At the end of the book, he shares that his great-grandfather Bob has done many things: teacher, barber, bouncer, bingo reader, etc. And even though he just turned 103, he still doesn’t know what he wants to be. The reason I love this book is that often society pushes kids to make ONE career decision. In reality, most of our career paths are (borrowing the term from Helen Tupper book)”squiggly” vs. linear. I think it’s essential for young kids to know that they can evolve, re-invent themselves and change paths.
3. Kid Start-Up: How YOU Can Become an Entrepreneur by Mark Cuban and Shaan Patel
- This book introduces the idea that anyone can be an entrepreneur. In a fun and engaging way, it presents the concepts of identifying business opportunities, product placement, and pricing strategies. It’s probably better for elementary-aged kids vs. preschoolers.
4. You’ve Got Gifts by KRISTIN A. SHERRY
- This book is about Katarina, a woodland fairy with butterfly wings, which helps a young girl named Evelyn, who doesn’t think she’s good at anything, find her natural gifting. The author is a Strengths Finder coach (and the founder of YouMap LLC), so she’s truly an expert in helping people find their strengths. My girls–who went through a fairy stage– like the pictures a lot in the book.
5. Maybe You Should Fly a Jet! Maybe You Should Be a Vet! a Dr. Seuss book
- This book is great book for young readers and pre-school aged kids. It’s a fun rhyming book to read and introduces the idea of real jobs and Seussian ones (like perfume smeller or bass-drum banger). After reading, parents can share that sometimes hobbies can become real professions.
Why Career Exploration Is Important
Fatherly and New York Life are asking kids “What do you want to be when you grow up” in the annual Imagination Report, a survey of more than 1,000 kids under the age of 12. Being a professional athlete ranks as the #3 choice for young boys.
This was a consistent them when I was volunteering in an elementary classroom a few years ago. I asked the students to raise their hands and share what they wanted to be when they grew up. 6 out of 10 of the boys in the classroom said that they wanted to be professional football players. According the Michael Calvin, author of “No Hunger in Paradise: The Players. The Journey. The Dream, this is not a reality for most young boys. According to the book, only 180 of the 1.5 million players who are playing organized youth football in England at any one time will make it as a Premier League pro. That’s a success rate of 0.012%.
Teach Children That Values Play a Role in Career Satisfaction
Research shows us that boys pick being a “professional athlete” as their dream job not because they desired to play the sport at a competitive level, but because they perceive professional athletes as rich, famous, and glorified.
If being well compensated is an important career consideration, there are many jobs that compensate well. Parents should discuss values-based decision making with their kids.
— Extrinsic values: These are values concerned with the by-product of the work. For example: “I want to make a good living” or “I want a job where my boss recognizes my value.”
— Intrinsic values: These values are intangible. For example: “I want the work I do to have meaning” or “I want to have a seat at the table.”
— Lifestyle values: These values are associated with how you want to live. Examples of these include: “I want flexibility at work so that I can pick up my daughter from school” or “I want to live in a big city so that I can access restaurants and culture.”
The Future of Work is Changing the Future of Jobs
And I’m not here just picking on little boys. The world of work is changing at a rapid pace and children’s career aspirations aren’t keeping up. Kids are picking dream jobs like “teacher” “lawyer” and “doctor” despite the fact that new types of jobs that are emerging. The World Economic Forum the OECD launched a report at Davos Platz Secondary School on the career aspirations of 500,000 15 year olds from 41 countries. They found that 47% of boys and 53 % of girls expect to work in one of just 10 popular jobs by age of 30.
The reality is that many of our kids will have a job that doesn’t even exist today.