Children choosing their own careers isn’t the worst idea (it might even be the best)

Various careers that children could pursue

Most people are currently working jobs that they are neither interested in nor care about. The factors that got them to the position they’re in vary from uncontrollable circumstances that landed them there to fear of being unemployed to being forced into a profession they hate but their parents believed would make them rich.

Sometimes circumstances are unavoidable and there’s little that can be done about it, fear of being unemployed is a personal battle that one must overcome themselves, but each of us can end the circle of pushing children into careers they despise.

In India, we have thousands of engineering graduates (maybe more) produced year after year. I’m not going to tell you that we shouldn’t be producing more engineers in the country, that wouldn’t make any sense and would be stupid advice. I’m going to tell you that perhaps whether your child chooses to pursue engineering, accounting, the arts or anything else should be left up to them.

The reason engineering is so popular in India (about 80% of the youth in India want to be engineers according to a global report from 2015) is not because Indians are born with an engineering drive ingrained in them but because their parents (and society) either consciously or subconsciously nudge them towards it. This isn’t a bad thing because parents are simply trying to make sure their children hold respected positions and earn enough to support their families.

However, parents don’t realize that their children may be unhappy every day of their lives because they had to study something they never cared about and then had to perform a job that they hate day after day for decades.

Do parents directly influence the careers that their children choose?

Many parents don’t even realize that they’re nudging their children toward certain career paths because it’s not intentional, such as when they glorify relatives or friends that have obtained engineering degrees while expressing concern about the future of others that obtain liberal arts or other degrees that in their minds are not as valuable or are worthless. Children pick up on this and also believe that only certain professions are an option for a successful career.

There are also other parents who exclusively decide what their children will become, and the choices are usually one among a small set of options such as a doctor, engineer, lawyer, or architect. These children usually don’t ever get a say about what they will become and spend their entire lives doing something they dislike.

Many people may, sooner or later, realize how unhappy they are and switch to a profession that they actually enjoy. Well, instead of having spent years training and performing a job that they despise, if they had just been allowed to choose the profession they’d enjoy they might never have been unhappy.

But they don’t know what they want to do!

I understand that children are usually not adept at picking careers, not even when they’re 17 or 18 and are required to choose a university. However, instead of selecting a career path for your child, presenting the range of career choices that exist in the world today would be a much better option. If a child under no external influence is allowed to choose a career path, even if the path chosen is not what makes them truly happy it will probably be close enough to their perfect career and a switch to that career would be much easier than a switch from a career path that their parents chose for them.

Presenting every career path available while trying to avoid influencing their children’s career choice is a tough line to walk. However, parents can introduce their children to as many sectors as possible thereby granting their children an introduction to many fields. The not influencing their choice part of this strategy is still up to parents to honour.

Is there a photography workshop this weekend? Take your child to it. A new mechanical kit with raving reviews? Let your child try it. Basics of chemistry session for kids? Enrol your child in it. A drama workshop? Drive them there.

Your child might hate many of these but their exposure to this field and decision to despise it now is far better than them having gone to university to learn about the same field and then despising their job for years.

This is a neat way to give your child a taste of many career paths and let them decide for themselves.

If your child discovers what they truly love at an early age, it also gives them an extreme head-start at learning about the field. This is an advantage that most kids miss out on.

If you have suggestions to add to this post or have an opposing point of view, leave a comment below.

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