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  • Rick Ktorides

5 Lessons Learnt - Explaining Project Management to your Kids

My 6-year-old daughter asked me the other day " What do you do for your job? " I instantly had thought paralysis - how do you explain being a "Project Manager" in a way she would understand (and think her dad was cool !) ??

She knew that I worked for the airport but whilst I was trying to formulate an answer - she fired more questions with a great sense of curiosity and wonder:

  • "Do you fix the planes ?"

  • "Do you tell the people which aeroplanes to use ?"

  • "Do you drive the planes at the airport ?"

Actually, that last one sounded pretty cool and disrupted my thought process.

I was anticipating answering this question since she was born and when the moment finally arrived - I failed completely!

When I told her I "manage projects", she had no idea what either of those words meant.

Here are my top 5 lessons learnt:

Lesson Learnt # 1 - Check the internet for ideas

There is a wealth of information and ideas on how to explain your job to kids.

I felt a great sense of comfort that I was not alone and that other parents were also struggling.

For kids 10 and under - there is not much at all. Most of the information I found were in chat forums such as where parents provided ideas and experiences.

For kids 10 and above - I was really surprised at just how many resources there are around project management for kids - check these out:

Lesson Learnt # 2 - Be prepared for the question

Winging a response on the spot (like I did) is probably not a good idea - especially if you have a job that kids can't readily relate to such as Project Management.

What to prepare really depends on how old your child is - you have to be able to explain it at their level.

After some thought and preparation, I explained it something like this:

  • "When people want to build something, I help them do it..."

  • "I help them to start the work, ask other people to help and we all try our best to finish it with what we have..."

  • "Everyone is happy if we all do a good job..."

She gave me a slightly perplexed look - but I took that as a great sign and a good lead up to actually demonstrate my job.

Lesson Learnt # 3 - Demonstrate what you do

This one is about taking your kid through the journey of what you do in a demonstrated form.

When I told her that I would show her what my job was with Lego - she seemed pretty happy with that.

With her Lego collection in front of us - I told her that I would now pretend to do my job...

  • "So, what do you want to build?"

  • "I want to do this one, Frozen Ice Castle with Elsa and Anna. I want to do it like the picture"

  • "OK, do we have all the pieces?"

  • "Yes, they are here"

  • "OK, the book says we need to find these pieces first..."

If you want your kids to be excited about what you do at work - you also need to express and show that excitement!

Lesson Learnt # 4 - Demonstrate what could go wrong

This one is about showing what would happen if you did not do your job properly and the importance of doing a good job.

So with Lego - I showed her that if we lost a piece, or if we were too quick, did not check the pieces properly or attached them the right way, it would not work.

That worked well and we had a great Lego building session.

I felt I was "project managing" things well and on track until we had the following exchange:

  • "Can I come to your work tomorrow ?"

  • "Well you need to go to school..."

  • "HMMM - It's not fair, I have to go to school and you go to work and play Lego !"

Lesson Learnt # 5 - Have patience - don't give up

My biggest lesson learnt is that if you don't explain it right the first time, have patience and don't give up trying.

I am really eager for her to understand what I do for a living - it's a major part of what provides for us as a family.

I completely failed the first time and as for the second time round - I'm a little closer albeit she's probably telling her friends at school that her dad does something with Lego at the airport.

When she's a little older and is better able to grasp some of those principles I will certainly try again...

In Closing...

I'm not giving up!



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