Understanding the world of work

It 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 work

Once 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:

Employer's Purpose
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.

Organization Structure
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:

Organization Style
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.

Employment Policies
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.

Employer's Industry
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.