child at work

Today is Take Our Kids to Work Day, a national event that was created to give our kids a peek into the working world. And while many companies plan a day of special events, parties, and long lunches for the kids—remember that today’s really a day to show them what work is all about.

So, if you’re planning to bring your sons or daughters to work today, here are a few ways to make the most of it.

1. Teach Business Etiquette 101

Heading to the office is a great time to give kids a lesson in workplace etiquette. Now matter how old they are, spend some time teaching them how to give a handshake, make eye contact, introduce themselves, and greet someone properly. Once you get to the office, have them practice their handshakes and introductions as you take them around to meet the team.

And don't let them wear their usual attire to the office! Make sure they pick out work-appropriate outfits, and use the opportunity to talk about your office dress code: why suits are required, for example, or why jeans are okay for some employees and not others. This is the stuff they’re definitely not learning in school, so they need to learn it from you!

2. Stick to Your Normal Routine

It’s important to follow your normal routine as much as possible so your children get a real sense of what you do—you don’t want to give them the idea that your work is fun all the time!

So, if you typically pack your lunch, pack your kids' too, or if you typically eat in the break room, bring them there. If you go to a meeting, have your children come (assuming your boss is OK with it). Really, going about your normal duties is the best way for your kids to really understand what you do. Walk them through what you’re doing and why, and use every opportunity you can to talk about things like confidentiality, your sales quota, customer service policies—anything that would help them better understand the ins and outs of your job.

Better yet, plan some actual work tasks for them to do—don’t just send them to the conference room or an empty cubicle to do their homework. They could file, sort papers, do online research for an upcoming project, or even answer the phone. (Just have them say something like, “Student speaking,” or “Karen’s daughter speaking.” Might even charm that client you’ve been trying to land!)

3. Make the Rounds

In addition to checking out your work, make sure your kids meet your boss and co-workers, especially those who have different roles than you, and explain what each person does. Not only will it open their eyes to other positions or career paths, it will help them understand more about your job by seeing how you fit within your organization.

If your kids are a little older, you can even set them up short meetings with a few of your colleagues. Have your kids come up with a list of questions to ask them about their career path and their job, and report back to you on what they learned.

4. Talk About Your Career

In addition to showing your children what you do, spend some time during the day to talk about how you got there and why you chose your particular career path (or how it chose you!). Share what you love about your job and your company, the challenges you face, the pros and cons of your career path, and other jobs and careers you may have considered.

Then, use the discussion as a jumping off point to ask them about their own career goals. What did they think were the most interesting parts of the day? The most interesting people? Were they more intrigued by the staffers who spent their days writing, or the ones who were meeting with clients? Did they like the quiet environment of the design team’s office or the bustling open floor plan of the sales wing? Having these discussions can help them think about where their interests lie and what they might want in a career or job.

5. Don’t Just Make it About Today

And on that note, remember that while today is a great time to talk to your children about careers, this conversation shouldn’t be confined to one day. Pay attention to where your kids’ aptitudes and natural interests lie, and help them find ways to explore them, whether it’s through clubs, elective classes, or conversations with your friends. If they have a strong interest in the medical field, for example, make sure they’re taking all of the math and science classes available to them. Also teach your children to advocate for themselves and to seek out teachers and other adult mentors—these are the people who will think of your children when educational or other opportunities arise. As a parent, it’s your job to stay involved in your kids' education, even in high school.

While they certainly don’t have to have their career decided by age 10, helping them find ways to pursue their interests and abilities can go a long way when they’re older and they are trying to figure out what they want to do. While some schools do a good job helping students think about their future careers, most don’t—and regardless, you’re the one who knows your kids best and can offer the best insight and advice into their future.

Most of all, have fun today! Not only will your children learn about you and your job, you get to spend the whole day with kids, and nothing is better than that!