Understanding the world of workIt is never too early to begin observing the adult world. The adult world involves a number of interrelated life roles. As an adult, each of us acts as an individual, a learner, a producer, a consumer, a family member, and a citizen. Understanding the world of work is important for preparing for all of these life roles. It is critical to formulating a career plan.
Understanding the world of work follows closely with the stages of career development. First, your children need to be aware of it. Later, they explore it through investigation and experience, relating it to their own interests, values, skills, and plans. Once they become participants in the world of work, they continue to keep informed in order to actively manage their careers. As a parent, understanding the world of work supports your children, but it also helps you in your own career development.
Keeping informed about the world of workOnce your children are employed, knowing what is happening in their work site, their company, their industry, and the economy is critical to their career self-management. As you probably know from your own work, people succeed more easily in their jobs when they know their employer's purpose, structure, style, and industry.
Your children can learn about their company by asking their supervisor, the human resources manager, or coworkers. They can also find out by reading the company's annual report and looking at its Web site. Question that they should be asking include:
- What is the organization's mission and vision?
- What does the company do (not just my unit or department)? What does it provide, make, create, grow, promote, coordinate, or develop?
- To whom does the company provide services?
- Where does the company's money come from?
- How many employees work for the company?
- What new programs is the company starting or planning?
- Is the company part of a larger organization? What does that organization provide, make, create, grow, promote, coordinate, or develop?
- How does the company work with other organizations?
- Does the company have offices and clients just in the U.S. or internationally?
The employer's purpose is often called a mission statement. The mission statement says why an employer is in business. The more an employee knows about that purpose, the more that employee understands how his or her job supports the employer's purpose.
An employer can be private for profit, private nonprofit, or a government agency. Some employers are very large and have thousands of workers. Many employers are small with fewer than 20 workers. No matter what their size or type, employers have different types of structures:
Sometimes the pyramid structure is called a bureaucracy or hierarchy. The organization usually has one main manager; three to five people report directly to that manager. These subordinates all have specialty areas. Each of these subordinates has five to eight people reporting to them, all of whom have specialty areas as well. This layering of people and managers or supervisors keeps on repeating, with the number of subordinates increasing slightly at each level. The largest number of subordinates that one person usually has directly reporting to them is between 15 and 20.
This organizational structure is roughly like a pyramid. People do the work in a set manner at the wide bottom of the hierarchy. People plan and make important decisions at the narrow top peak of the hierarchy. Communication in this organization is formal. There are often many rules and regulations in this structure. A large organization that has been in business for many years often has this structure. Government offices, utility companies, and large manufacturers are some examples of a pyramid structure. These organizations are often referred to as top down because the flow of decision and authority is downward.
The flat structure takes the top peak of the pyramid with the main manager and puts it directly on the wide bottom base of people who do the work. There are fewer managers or supervisors and more workers. Communication in this organization is often informal. Rules tend to be made up as the job is done. Small or entrepreneurial organizations often have this structure. Software development companies are an example of a flat organizational structure.
The diamond structure starts with the top peak of the pyramid with the main managers. It then adds a wide middle section with worker and managers. Then, a narrow bottom band of workers exists and their activities are more directly supervised. Service organizations often have this structure. Think of a doctor's office, with the doctor at the top, the nurses and office workers in the middle, and the cleaning people at the bottom.
The style of the employer can be different. Some employers focus on quality, some on customer satisfaction, some on product quality, and some on product quantity. When an employee knows the purpose, type of structure, and focus of the employer, that employee can better understand how to fit into the company, improve his or her productivity, and in the end perhaps garner better wages.
No matter how large or small an employer is, there will be employment policies. These policies govern how the employer pays and evaluates its employees. Employment policies describe employees' rights. An employee should get a copy of these policies and read them thoroughly.
Thoroughly understanding the industry in which one is employed is essential to manage job and career goals. Knowledge of the industry helps understand the employer's purpose and goals. Knowledge of the industry also helps an employee find other employers who may need to hire people who have his or her set of skills. The Oregon Employment Department issues reports on employment trends by industry. Local employment department offices and public libraries have employer directories.