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#sowhoknew: My parents have no idea what I do for a job. Do yours?

I’ve been in the media planning / buying business for 30 years. And for the exact same amount of time I’ve been trying to explain what I do to my parents. But alas to no avail. They still think I ‘make adverts”.

Trust me, it’s not like I haven’t tried. I’ve even pared it down to the most basic of explanations:

“Right, now when you see an advert on the TV there are other people watching it too. With me so far? Good. So depending on the type of programme, the time of day it is broadcast and who is watching it we match that information to the brand that our client is trying to promote. With me? Finally we negotiate a price to put our advert into the ad break for that programme. Got it?”

There is always a lot of furious head nodding and visible cues of comprehension. And then that same question which always fills my heart with dread…

“I just don’t know where you come up with the ideas for these adverts. I love that one with the polar bear in suit who talks to the chimpanzee on the bus. Did you make that one?”

And once again I have failed abysmally. I’ve even tried it with other media types beyond TV. We’ve been through them all. Radio, outdoor, print etc. And don’t get me started about online. I lost them at cookies.

Does any of this sound familiar? Well it’s not like matters are going to get any easier any time soon when you consider that many of the jobs that workers are doing today didn’t even exist 10 years ago. With the advent of new technologies invading the working environment at an accelerating rate who knows what job functions and practices will be prevalent in the next decade.

LinkedIn conducted a survey a few years ago which analysed the opinions of 16,000 adults and concluded that 1 in 3 parents have a hard time trying to comprehend what their offspring do for a living (so it isn’t just my parents then). Rather reassuringly though, two thirds of them are keen to understand more about what their children do and believe they could actually advise them if they were better informed.

Pat Wadors, SVP of Global Talent for LinkedIn said, “Given all of the new types of jobs created over the past few years, it’s understandable that a lot of parents may not understand what their kids actually do at work each day.”

The survey went even further and listed the most difficult jobs for parents to understand. The top five in reverse order are:

5. Sub-Editor

4. Social Media Manager

3. Data Scientist

2. Actuary

1. User Interface Designer

Be honest, how many of these can you succinctly explain?

A recent article in Forbes has listed four key reasons why the parents of Millennials in particular really don’t get it when it comes to their kids careers:

Adaptability – a study by Ernst & Young study found that Baby Boomers ranked the lowest when it comes to being “adaptable and collaborative” whilst Millennials performed “best” at collaboration (27 per cent v 20 per cent) and adaptability (41 per cent v 10 per cent).

Technology – quite simply, Millennials are ‘digital natives’ whilst their parents are not.

Mis-categorisation – misconceptions placed on certain industries by parents based upon an outdated viewpoint. For example a Director of Investment at Fidelity who said her parents believe she “sits behind her desk crunching numbers and managing stocks all day” could not be further from the truth.

Fully flexible – the notion of the 9 to 5 doesn’t really exist any more. Working from home, in the evenings or at weekends is now commonplace and the expectation that you will be tied to your desk for the day is slowly being eroded.

So what do you think? Are your parents cognisant of your career choice or do they have no clue about what you do? Are you the parent yourself struggling to discern what on earth your child does for a living? As ever, I am keen to hear your thoughts…

Steve Blakeman

Steve Blakeman is the Global Media Lead - Nestlé at Mindshare. Previously, he was the Managing Director - Global Accounts, OMD Europe. Previously, he was the CEO, Asia Pacific – OMD. Prior to that, he was Global Chief Integration Strategy Officer (Asia Pacific) for IPG Mediabrands (Initiative & Universal McCann). He has also had stints as worked as Managing Partner at Omnicom Media Group owned media agency, PHD where he successfully launched their second office in the UK. He began his career at JWT and has over two decades of experience in advertising, media and marketing communications.