Quick – if you could pick right now, what second language would you have your kids learn to enhance their economic prospects over the next 50 years?
If you said, "Spanish", congratulations. That’s a nice choice, and you’re towing the company line. My guess is that 95% of American’s would give that answer. After all, Spanish is rapidly becoming the language of choice, or strong second option, in many American communities.
Spanish is certainly a solid choice for your kids. Learning Spanish will help them navigate through the increasing diversity they’ll find in the states over the next 50 years. If they’re managing a call center or expanding a retail presence stateside, they’ll need Spanish to make sure they’re getting their fair share of the labor pool for the businesses they support.
Here’s the dirty little secret. Spanish will help them maintain the lifestyle you’ve established in your killer career. It won’t allow them, however, to have economic prospects that are better than yours.
To transcend what you’ve done economically, your kids are going to have to think outside the box, and look westward across the Pacific.
Your kids need to learn Mandarin.
Before you tell me that I’m simply drinking the Olympic kool-aid, I’m not. I’m thinking raw economics. Depending on who you believe, the Chinese economy will pass the US economy somewhere between 2015 and 2050. Regardless of when that event happens, the Chinese economy will have an increasingly stronger pull on the US.
Two concepts come into focus with this recommendation – global trade and the concept of a Billion…
It’s a global world, and China’s going to be the rising partner in what your kids are involved with globally. Want them to go to Harvard? Great!! To put the degree pedigree to work, they’ll be taking the shuttle to Beijing or Shanghai every month.
Why? Because China has a BILLION people, most (regardless of what the Chinese government told us during the Olympics) without iPods, two pairs of jeans or even (GASP!) a pair of Nikes. It’s a blank slate of a market, and your kids are going to have to crack it to hit the numbers needed for the annual bonus.
Or maybe they’ll work for a Chinese multi-national with operations stateside…
Here’s hoping the Olympics planted the seed of capitalism/global markets within the little guy in China – or at least made him want to have a Coke and a big screen TV. For now, do like Dr. Evil and start thinking "Billions", not "Millions".
And find a Mandarin tutor near you…
Kris Dunn is a Partner and CHRO at Kinetix, a national RPO firm for growth companies headquartered in Atlanta. He’s also the founder Fistful of Talent (founded in 2008) and The HR Capitalist (2007) – and has written over 70 feature columns at Workforce Management magazine. Prior to his investment at Kinetix, Kris served in HR leadership roles at DAXKO, Charter and Cingular. In his spare time, KD hits the road as a speaker and gives the world what it needs – pop culture references linked to Human Capital street smarts.