Proactive parents might say it's never too early to begin plotting a child's career development. Proactive parents might be right.
The unemployment rate recently fell to a 15-month low, but many of the jobs available require skill sets that today's job seekers largely don't possess. If you want your children to be hire-worthy and employed as adults, it's appropriate to begin preparing them for their future now. Gregory Downing, a father, educator, and the author of Entrepreneur Unleashed: Wealth to Stand the Test of Time, is working on a series of books on "how families can take control of their financial future and take control of the economic crisis." According to him, many traditional kid jobs could teach children basic career and life skills like networking, marketing, and budgeting. Those jobs could even start your child on the right path for career planning. "Instill those skills in your kids at an early age, and there's no telling what they might come up with," he says. "Who says your child can't be the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg?"
Here's an example of four juvenile jobs that could mature into more substantial full-time careers:
[Read: The 10 Best Jobs of 2012.]
Kids Ages 3 to 6
From running the neighborhood refreshment stand ... Doling out bargain-priced sugary drinks is rarely the pathway to riches. But so what if your kid's lemonade stand isn't the next Berkshire Hathaway, Inc.? This quintessential "kiddie" job makes for a great way to teach the basics of business. Children learn fundamentals about economics (those that make tasty drinks on the cheap will see the most profits); the importance of location to business (place the stand on the sidewalk by the four-way stop. It'll get more foot traffic than in a hidden-away cul-de-sac); and the nuances of sales (mannerable kids with good people skills will sell more). Even Peanuts' bossypants Lucy van Pelt saw the perks of the roadside stand: She used the same principle to run her 5-cent psychiatric booth.
To marketing manager ... Let's say your child learns that selling wintertime cocoa only during the hours that the neighbors are shovelling snow is more profitable than selling lemonade all summer long. Understanding market trends like this, then coming up with a plan to successfully promote them is part of a day's work for a marketing manager. This field should grow 13.6 percent to the end of this decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). To gain entry, your kid will probably need a bachelor's degree in business, but several other fields of study could also lead to career success, including accounting, finance, statistics, or even public relations and journalism. In 2011, the average salary for a marketing manager was $116,010.
Kids Ages 7 to 11
From dog walker ... A definitive perk for entering this kiddie business is high demand. Dogs are such a common household pet, but owners with the free time to give them the daytime exercise they need aren't as common. And unlike some other kid-friendly jobs, dog-walking won't take up much time, since kids could walk more than one pet at a time at designated intervals in the day. At the same time, being a neighborhood dog walker also teaches the responsibility of keeping to a set schedule and building loyalty and trust with clients. This gig is a good fit for slightly older children who are mature enough to care for the needs of another living thing, and have less-than-squeamish stomachs for cleaning up and disposing of waste.
To veterinarian ... Some adults have made dog-walking a full-fledged career. According to the job-search site Indeed.com, pet sitters/dog walkers earn an average salary of around $28,000, which is more than some paramedics, pharmacy technicians, and security guards take home in a year. But for more variety, more money, and more job security, consider veterinary medicine. Programs take four years to complete, and after meeting the licensing requirements of their state of residence, veterinarians command a starting salary of around $50,000. In 2011, the highest-paid earned six-figure salaries, and the BLS expects the field to grow 36 percent in the next eight years.
[Read: 10 Business That Will Boom in 2020.]
Kids Ages 12 to 14
From babysitter ... Not everyone has the chops to babysit. The best do more than just "watch" children; they also play games and do crafts, and they might even assist with homework, bath time, and preparing snacks. Responsible, patient sitters with safety training are able to juggle a larger clientele and command more pay. The online babysitter-booking service UrbanSitter recently reported that average hourly rates to sit one child range from $9.50 an hour in St. Louis to $15.50 an hour in New York City.
To school counselor ... Being a school counselor is more than an occupation, it's a calling. But it could be just the calling for those who enjoyed babysitting when younger. Both positions require attentiveness to a child's social, developmental, and academic needs. Counselors are specially trained to best know how to relate to and work with children, plus they're qualified to evaluate cognitive and social abilities, and provide the guidance and support necessary to deal with them. Counselors also offer advice on issues ranging from bullying and abuse to career paths and choosing a college. The BLS expects a 19 percent increase in school counselors by the year 2020. To find work in this field, a job seeker would need a bachelor's degree—possibly even a master's—in education and counseling, plus a state license. Average pay varied from $32,140 to $87,020 in 2011.
[See our Best Social Services Jobs rankings.]
Kids Ages 15 to 18
From lawn mower ... Earning extra funds this way is best reserved for older teens since it requires operating complex and sometimes dangerous machinery. And to be competitive, your teenager will need to charge less than a landscaping company—this summer The Wall Street Journal reported homeowners spent between $35 and $67.50 for professional lawn services. Loyal clients/neighbors might also pay your enterprising teen to rake their leaves in fall and shovel their snow in winter.
To landscape architect ... Those who like tilling earth and soil will find there's no formal education requirement to enter landscaping. Full-time landscapers and groundskeepers with on-the-job training earned anywhere from $17,130 to $23,410 in 2011. But advancement opportunities are ample for those who do pursue additional education and proper licensing. For example, many landscape architects use their knowledge of groundskeeping to design parks and highways. You'll need at least a bachelor's degree plus a license from the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards, and the BLS predicts this occupation will grow 16 percent by 2020. In 2011, the highest-paid landscape architects earned approximately $99,560.