Adulting Programs Help Young Professionals Survive & Thrive in Their Careers

“Adulting is hard.”

You might joke about this lament-turned-meme, but there’s a good reason we hear it all the time—it represents a real problem.

“I need to learn how to get this adult thing down and manage life,” said a student in a UC-Berkeley adulting course—yes, that’s a thing. In fact, you can find adulting programs all over the country—at universities, high schools, libraries, privately run groups, and, maybe soon, an association near you.

Here’s an idea to discuss with your association or chapter’s young professionals group: what if you offered adulting programs to recent graduates looking for a career in your industry and young professionals just starting out.

Many people in their 20s (and even some in their 30s) were never taught the personal and professional skills needed to function and thrive as an adult. Adulting programs will capture the attention of young professionals in your market and provide the education they desperately need.

Why many young people don’t have adulting skills

Gen Z and Millennials got a poor deal. High schools stopped offering home economics and shop—the classes that taught older generations how to cook, hem their pants, balance a checkbook, and do basic household repairs.

Helicopter parents sheltered their kids, doing things for them instead of teaching them how to do it themselves. Plus, kids of late have had so many extracurricular demands on their time that some topics never got discussed.

Previous generations could afford to go out on their own during or after college. Young people now are starting their own households at a much later age. Because of student loan debt and a tight job market, a third of Americans between 18 and 34 are still living with their parents. When they do go out on their own, many of them don’t have family or a support network nearby.

If you do the research, you’ll most likely discover a market need for adulting programs. Young people feel inept and anxious that they don’t have these skills. They’re overwhelmed and unprepared for their new responsibilities. According to the principal of the Adulting School in Portland, Maine, “There’s a lot of self-loathing that happens.”

adulting programs

Why offer adulting programs to your market

Why you? Why is this a role for your association? Well, let’s assume you’re already seen as a market leader for professional development. Think of an adulting curriculum as entry-level programs for the people who want to enter your market or have recently entered it.

You could consider adulting programs for the same reason many associations offer student and young professional memberships—to establish relationships with future members and customers, become a valuable part of their lives, and earn their trust and loyalty.

Help young people in your industry become more self-reliant and proactive about their future. Help them tackle basic adult responsibilities so they can free up energy to focus on other parts of their lives—like getting a job in your industry or advancing their career.

Show this market segment that you get them. They may not be in a position to afford membership or more expensive educational programs, but you still know how to deliver relevant value to them. You’re humanizing the association by helping the whole person. When they’re able to invest in membership or association programs, they’ll remember how they got started with you and how much you helped.

What to teach in adulting programs

No one expects your association to teach cooking or household maintenance, but you can educate young people in more relevant topics. Some of these topics might seem personal but young adults won’t get far in life if they don’t have these skills nailed down, for example:

•    Household budgeting
•    Insurance
•    Student and/or consumer debt management
•    Tax preparation

You may already be offering education and resources on career topics of interest to young professionals, such as:

•    Job applications, resumes, and interviews
•    Job seeking etiquette
•    Social media best practices
•    Salary and raise negotiations
•    Time management
•    Best practices for remote work

Other possible topics include:

•    Conflict resolution
•    Lessons on failure
•    Stress management, work/life balance, and wellbeing
•    Building good habits
•    Goal setting
•    Citizenship skills—build your future grassroots activists and PAC supporters!
•    Study and learning skills

Tweak adulting programs for your industry/profession. For example, you could bring in a panel of young professionals to discuss “things no one tells you about your first real job.” Get sponsors involved. They can provide scholarships or subsidize program expenses.

Use your LMS to offer these programs—webinars, mini-courses, or regular courses. If you’re designing a new adulting program, develop a program template for your chapters so they can provide an in-person version.

Offer live and recorded programs. Use your LMS integration with Zoom or GoToWebinar for live programs so people can see each other’s faces. You could host Q&A sessions with experts and/or offer virtual one-on-one coaching sessions. Provide access to an online community. Host accountability groups for those who have taken courses.

adulting programs

Get young members involved in adulting programs

Bring this idea to your young professionals group. Put them in charge of planning the curriculum and provide staff assistance where appropriate. At the University of California-Berkeley, two undergrads plan topics and schedule guest speakers for their extremely popular adulting course.

You could find speakers on your own or partner with other associations whose members specialize in the topics discussed in your program, for example, insurance, financial planning, etc.

When thinking about speakers and coaches, aim for young professionals who are five to ten years further along in their career. They can still remember and understand what program participants are going through. They’re relatable models of success for young people to emulate. Promote these speaking opportunities by reminding young professionals that they’re great resume builders, reputation enhancers, and ways of giving back.

You can help young people acquire the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to survive and thrive as adults and professionals in your industry. Adulting programs give them the chance to develop relationships with peers and find their tribe. They’ll also build a connection with your association—the people who started them out on their road to success.

young professionals
generation z
career resources
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