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Don't push your children into careers they're not suited for – it can backfire

It can be hard to do, but sometimes we should back off and let young people make their own decisions.

BEING A PARENT is a great job to have at the best of times, but it can also be a daunting one. Especially when we are faced with an onslaught of news headlines every day telling us that, as a country, we are not equipped for 2020 when we will have a skills shortage of thousands of people to fill roles for the fast and ever-changing technology industry.

Has anybody actually stopped for a moment and considered how schools, colleges and parents are preparing their children for this newly-changed working world? Has anybody asked our children if they want to go down this career path?

Now, call me a technophobe, but surely we are still going to need traditional careers and professions, and if a child has absolutely no interest in working in a science or technical area then why are we pushing them? Just because industry experts tell us to? Look where that has gotten us as a country. Because that’s where the biggest salaries will be? We all need to stop and think about what our children really want to do themselves, what makes them happy, what they are interested in. If they don’t know then we need to start introducing them to as many different careers and jobs as possible.

Parents need to back off sometimes

Given the ongoing debates over nature versus nurture in our quest to find what makes the talented and seemingly successful people tick, evidence does exist to lean towards the nurture element. We need more parents, caregivers and teachers watching and observing our children and students as they go about their daily lives. If a child wants to climb trees or read a book for hours, then maybe we need to let them.

Leave them to their introverted or extroverted tendencies. Who are we to push them onto a PC and instruct them that the future is in coding if they simply have no interest?

Richard Branson is famously quoted as saying that both of his parents were generous with their time, energy and love, providing him with opportunities to succeed, along with a lot of freedom. Now, I am not naive enough to believe that therein lies the secret to preparing a child for their future, nor that we can create an assembly line of Richard Bs, so how do we step back from guiding our children with their choices without appearing horizontal? How can we resist the urge to do it for them so that they don’t make the mistakes we may have made as parents?

It is time that career guidance as a whole took a more holistic approach to preparing students up and down the country for college and the next steps ahead. We are well overdue a more integrated approach with parents and their children, for – surely – isn’t it the parents and caregivers who know their offspring best? Can we include parents more in this decision-making process so that we give our children the best start in the next phase of their lives?

Not all careers have a defined path 

I have recently witnessed the fallout from an over-eager support network of parent and guidance counsellor who encouraged a high-achiever child to maximise their potential by using their high points on a course they had zero interest in doing. Just because you get over 500 points does not always mean you want to strive for the perceived ‘top’ of the career ladder roles that remain elusive to the majority of students.

This student had shown great promise and talent in other areas which the parents simply did not accept as being a worthwhile for a career. Instead of a defined career path, the young person in question finds himself questioning his own bad choices, berating himself for not sticking out his parent’s choice of study, and longing to belong to another group who will welcome his talent, nurture it and in return feed his soul.

We are all seeking nourishment every day. Those students lucky enough to have a good support network are replenished; those who just need the extra support and encouragement to find their way we need a new solution – and fast.

Karen Frampton is a Career coach and Founder of a new initiative “When I Grow Up” that brings careers into the classroom and inspires children to think about a wide range of careers and professions.

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