You Don’t Have To Go To Jail To Give Your Kid An Edge

Posted January 7, 2020 by Mark Perna

Today’s epic college admissions scandal holds three practical, actionable lessons for parents. No prison time required. Mark’s article, “You Don’t Have To Go To Jail To Give Your Kid An Edge,” published at on November 5, 2019.

Actress Felicity Huffman was recently released from prison after serving 11 days for her involvement in the ongoing college admissions scandal. Huffman was convicted of paying $15,000 to have her daughter’s SAT doctored to help her get into an elite college.

But Huffman isn’t alone. More than 30 other well-to-do parents—influencers in business, sports, education, healthcare, and entertainment—are involved in the scandal, not to mention those who have yet to be exposed. Stories like this demonstrate the lengths to which parents will go to give their children a competitive advantage.

Yes, seeing our kids succeed is a universal desire—and, thankfully, there’s an easier way than participating in a criminal conspiracy.

Academic knowledge alone is no longer enough

The educational landscape in America has shifted. It used to be enough to get good grades. Those who excelled in school could be fairly well assured of a viable, living-wage career awaiting them at the end of their higher education. It was a nice system—while it lasted.

It used to be enough to get good grades. Those who excelled in school could be fairly well assured of a viable, living-wage career awaiting them at the end of their higher education. It was a nice system—while it lasted. Click To Tweet

Today, it’s no longer enough to excel in the academic realm. While robust academic performance is still important, young people who truly want to get ahead must add two other critical attributes to their portfolio: technical competency and professional skills.

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Technical competency (or hard skills) can be gained in a variety of ways, including career-focused programs, internships, apprenticeships, licensures, and more. Even part-time employment can deliver technical abilities to some degree. Many employers are now looking at demonstrable skills and experience rather than the letters behind an applicant’s name. Whether they’re college, career, or military bound, every young person can benefit from the cognitive rigor required to master a technical ability.

When an individual has the academic and technical credentials, professional skills (or soft skills) complete the package. Professional skills are simply the personal attributes and character to succeed in the workplace: work ethic, punctuality, communication, leadership, ability to accept feedback, integrity, critical thinking, problem-solving, stress management, and many more. They are universal across all levels, in all industries, at all times, and are increasingly in demand.

Helping young people succeed

There are many rewarding routes to educational and career success. Parents can play a vital role in helping their middle or high school student discover what they’re passionate about and make a plan to get there—whether college is in the picture or not. Here are three ways you can support their educational and career journey.

  • Explore earlier. At thousands of dollars per semester, college is not the best time to experiment. You can support your child’s career exploration in middle and high school by encouraging their participation in career-focused programs, internships, apprenticeships, and other hands-on experiences that give them a taste of the real thing. The sooner they explore their path, the further they can go.
  • Consider all postsecondary pathways. College can be a great option if your career goal requires it, but it’s only one of many rewarding pathways available today. And given the staggering student loan epidemic, it’s certainly not the best choice for everyone. All options should be on the table, without stigma or prejudice, to allow your child to make the choice that aligns with their career and lifestyle goals.
  • Promote conversation, not commitment. Encourage your child to pick a “for-now” career direction that they can start researching and planning for, with the understanding that they can change their mind at any time. This takes the pressure off, allowing career exploration to be fun instead of fearful. And of course, keep the lines of communication open as they explore their interests. For right now, it’s a conversation rather than a commitment.
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To succeed in the new, ever-changing workforce, your child will need robust academic knowledge, technical competency, and professional skills—a trifecta of competitive, economic advantage. And your support can make it happen. No prison time required.

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About The Author
Mark Perna
Mark C. Perna is an international speaker and bestselling author. He also serves as CEO of TFS Results, a strategic consulting firm at the forefront of the national paradigm shift in education and workforce development.
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