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How to Help Your Gen Z Kid Find Success

The path to profit is no longer tied to a four-year degree.

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Perfect grades. Perfect college. Perfect job. Perfect life.

If you're a Baby Boomer, GenXer or Millennial, that trajectory will sound all too familiar. But for a growing number of Gen Z kids, it's completely out of touch with our rapidly-changing world.

The percentage of Americans with college degrees has climbed steadily since 1968. Yet research shows that Gen Zers are becoming less and less interested in this long-held "rite of passage." In 2020, only 7 in 10 Gen Zers wanted to pursue a four-year degree. Continued fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this trend. A recent study found that just 51% of Gen Z kids want to attend college and a new Experian Boost poll, of recent university graduates of those that did found that 81% of respondents wished they were taught more life skills like long-term financial planning, managing student loan debt and budgeting.

As interest in college dwindles, new entrepreneurial opportunities abound — and Gen Zers are taking notice. These enterprising Gen Zers range from elementary-school YouTubers like Ryan, who earned $11 million in 2018 reviewing toys, to late-teen TikTok stars Charli and Dixie D'Amelio. The duo raked in $27.8 million on the platform in 2021.

The majority of Gen Zers have already begun saving for retirement and 62% said they have started — or plan to start — their own businesses. Meanwhile, a recent Harvard Business School study found that more companies are dropping four-year degrees from their hiring requirements. Yet a majority of Gen Z kids feel pressured to attend college, even after they show interest in alternative career pathways.

Related: 3 Ways to Avoid the Quiet Quitting of Your Gen Z Employees

Making kids "future-ready"

Nick Gross, founder and CEO of Find Your Grind, is on the front lines of this shifting dynamic. His startup is helping Gen Zers navigate a fluid world in which there are more career pathways than ever — and in which fulfillment and purpose define the journey, not a diploma.A longtime music industry veteran, Gross isn't your typical career counselor. But after finding success helping kids explore careers in music, his "aha" moment struck.

"I was immersing kids in eight-hour days where mentors would share their insights on careers in the music industry," recalled Gross. "After seeing how this opened their eyes to new possibilities, I thought, 'How can I guide kids across hundreds of emerging careers, not just music?' "

Gross started creating video content focused on humanizing various professions. Mentors shared how they got started in their pathway, what they learned along the way and what their job is really like — all insights that rarely make their way into students' career planning curriculum.

That video series led to an 18-month speaking tour in high schools across the nation and a college version soon followed. Both were designed to help kids approach their career path through a different lens.

Gross and his team spoke with more than 2 million students across the nation. The students were overwhelmed; they were unsure how to navigate the road ahead and felt pressured to take traditional pathways despite their other interests.

"There are way more career options than there were 20 years ago, and students are struggling to fit into a world that's changing so rapidly," noted Gross. "We decided to build a platform that would help them understand who they are and where they want to go."

The Find Your Grind platform flips the switch on traditional career planning. Rather than pushing the career paths of yesterday, the AI-powered platform helps students see all the possibilities available to them. Then, it equips students with the 21st Century skills they need to succeed.

In LinkedIn's 2021 Workplace Learning Report, Gen Zers ranked highly for their desire to "learn their way" to a better career. They logged 50% more hours with online courses than learners from any generation. Programs like Find Your Grind reflect Gen Z's desire to gain new skills via digestible digital formats.

As students interact with the platform, they earn badges for activities that build core personal and social development skills. (Think: self-discovery, mindset balance, finance and more). Once students complete these challenges, the platform uses AI to match them with customized programming. By exploring thousands of careers and mentor videos, students gain a wider perspective on all the pathways available to them — and can determine which ones fulfill their purpose.

"Often, kids get inspired to follow one path by what they see their peers doing or what they see on Tiktok, but then they're told that's not what they should do," relayed Gross. "We want to eliminate the stress that Gen Z kids feel and instead give them a different, more empowering framework for finding fulfillment."

If the program isn't yet launched at your child's school, you can still help them "find their grind." Not sure where to start? Here's what Gross recommends...

Related: Here's What's Driving the Trend of Self-Made Gen Z and Millennial Millionaires

Cultivate their cognition

Self-awareness is key to well-being, and as career paths become more aligned with purpose, this skill has never been more critical. As your child explores their future, Gross recommends encouraging them to learn more about themselves. When they identify what they're truly passionate about, they can determine what skills are needed to be successful in that area — and that combination will undoubtedly give them a leg up in their future path.

Consider investing in products or tools that help your kids think introspectively and develop emotional intelligence. Then, help them apply that thinking to their personal and professional goals.

Don't force one route

College isn't for everyone, and that's especially true with all the new opportunities available to Gen Z kids. If your child shows an affinity toward something early on, let them explore it. Help them find possible paths forward and remain open-minded about these options. We live in a new world, and forcing old ways of thinking is never the best path to progress.

Embrace project-based learning

Two recent studies confirm what most learners already know: Project-based learning is more effective than traditional curriculum, regardless of a student's level of achievement or socioeconomic status. Real-world experience is relatable for kids and getting them out into the field could be just the spark they need to find their grind.

"So many kids think that being a doctor, engineer or lawyer are the only pathways because that's what their schools are telling them," added Gross. "But Gen Z kids see all these possibilities out there and our mission is to help them build the skills they need for the future."

Related: These Two College Students Built a Company That Puts Startups In Front Of Investors. Here's How To Get Involved.

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