The Chosen Career Conundrum

Parents want the best for their children. This is a universal fact that transcends cultures, religions, and countries.

Sometimes though, what parents want for their children is not what their children want for themselves. An even more commonly seen observation among families that requires children to stand for up what they want even though their parents may vehemently disagree.

Especially with regards to career choice.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, Muslim parents have high expectations for their children...as they rightly should. But ask these parents what they want their children to be when the grow up, and you'll find the responses to be top professional fields: doctor, lawyer, engineer, a financial/business position, or dentist. Not many parents would encourage their children to go into trades, education, skilled labor force, "helping professions", or to encourage other options that may exist. Hence most children grow up not really being exposed to the myriad of choices available to them.

There's also a trend in which parents match a career to their son or daughter, rather than matching their child to a career. "Ohh my beta looks like a doctor!" But what has happened to supporting children in discovering what their strengths and interests are and then making a choice from there? Because someone can only be truly happy with their career choice when it's matched with what they are passionate about.

I was a doctor wannabe from the age of 3 years. My mom tells me a story of where her and I were home alone and were watching a video of a surgery on television. She actually fainted and I continued to watch it. Of course, this could easily be mistaken as a cute story to tell people about my passion for medicine from the age of 3...but I'm not a doctor, so SNAP! Instead, it was probably a coincidence, as I feel faint seeing people in pain and when gross medical things are even SPOKEN about. Med school was apparently a big no-no.

And yes, I admit my dad really wanted me to get into medical school. Even after 5 years of practicing as an occupational therapist, he tells me to apply since I'd probably "get in now". Ha! Even if I could, I wouldn't...I'm so passionate about my field and current job, and blessed to be here, there's no way I'd give it up. Kudos to my parents who put blind faith in me moving away for 3 years for a career that they knew nothing about, and with career prospects in Calgary that weren't as vast as the States. I thank them for that!

I think that if parents are going to support the career exploration of their children, they first need to redefine what "success" is. It certainly ain't bringing in a lot of money, having a position with prestige, or being seen as someone to be revered by others. Those things can all fade quite quickly, and if you're not happy with your job at the basic brainstem level, nothing can save you then.

Second, children and youth need to explore their interests and discover their strengths from a young age. I loved to volunteer and help people, as cliche as it sounds, and OT is just about that, but more. I knew I wanted to work in a health professions field, and knew that engineering and business were OUT for me. My brain just does not work that way and I'd miss the human contact that my job currently brings. But it ain't for everyone!

Third, nothing is a failure and changing degree programs or careers is not the end of the world. There was actually a 40 year old lady in my grad program who became my best friend, who was changing fields from marketing to OT! And she LOVED it! I'm sure many of us have heard stories such as these.

Lastly, parents cannot live vicariously through their children. While many immigrant parents want to give their children the best possible careers and chances possible (a primary reason why they come to Canada in the first place), pushing them into fields they won't be happy with is not the way to do things. You'll be raising miserable adults who wait for the daily grind of work to be over so that they can finally do something they enjoy doing.

So for an adult to be passionate about a job, in a time where not many people are, should be the ultimate definition of success :)


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