When people ask a child what they want to become when they grow they often say astronaut, fireman or doctor. You ask the same question to a 10th grader, chances are that they are fretting about choosing between streams.
A stream can be a career changing decision but a career needn’t be a life changing decision and that is the first thing we need to talk to our children about. Every management guru out there talks about how important it is to make decisions without anxiety or stress and yet the same people tell their kids to take science to keep their ‘options open’. Then that leads to a downhill journey to the same child pursuing engineering and then finally the career of their choice! This is the state of our country but this needn’t be the fate of your children.
The Oxford dictionary defines career as “an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress”. So keeping this in mind what can we do to help them find the right career option and help them make a wise choice between streams?
Quality of Life Index
What defines the quality of your life? Is it money, power, fame, achievement, happiness, or all of the above. As parents, we only want the best for our children so it is safe to assume that we only want the best career for them. Now pay attention to the last statement, ‘WE want that which is best, for them’ – in this we miss out the most the important thing, do we know what THEY (your children) think is best for themselves? How we define a measure of success might not be similar to how they define it! Hence a career decision needs to be a joint decision and not one-sided parental force. I know a lot of people in their 20s and 30s with poor physical and mental health pursuing lives their parents told them to and this is clearly not in line with what a parent envisions for their child .
Internet, options, Exposure!
The internet has given birth to careers that didn’t even exist 10 years ago. It is hard to keep up to date with all the options. We must also keep in mind that automation is going to replace a lot of jobs by 2035. So keeping an eye on the future and learning from the past, what will can be long lasting career for your child? Put your ward through student internships, let them see the workings of Banks, Corporates, Media Houses, Hospitals and Ad Agencies. Make you children talk to your friends from different fields to see what clicks with them the most and then give them the free hand to pursue it with ample amounts of research. Leave no stone unturned! Chances are they will pursue their version of the highest quality of life achievable.
If you don’t know what to do – science is not the answer!
As mentioned above, parents tend to send kids into science to keep their options open. If you child scores well in the boards, that is not criteria enough for pursuing a career In science. The 11th and 12th grade science along with Engineering and medical coaching are heavy financial investments not to mention the hardwork that goes in time-wise is 3-5 times that of commerce or humanities.
Take science by virtue of aptitude and passion! The skill sets required in all three fields are vastly different. Go to different career counsellors, listen to the teachers in school and allow your child to make decisions (and mistakes) regarding career choices starting from the 6th grade till the 10th grade. Chances are that they’ll arrive at a decision much faster than you think.
Make the process joyful.
Parents take great amount of stress during stream choices, it almost becomes like a household crisis in some houses.
- Rule no.1 – Dear Parents, don’t makes this about you or your illustrious career, make it about your children, it is their time to shine.
- Rule no.2 – It is not the end of the world. Most school give students 1-3 months to try out different subjects to see what suits their comfort, learning style and interest. So work with your school and teachers, they do this every year.
- Rule no.3 – Listen to what your child is saying and listen more importantly to what they are not saying. Excitement towards what they’re learning is a good sign that they like their stream despite the stress that comes from new subjects.
Be supportive, have fun choosing a stream and support your child through their fears and stresses, with love and joy you’ll make the right choice! (Might sound like a fairytale but its true).
Best of luck!
Bachelor of Engineering-Chemical Engineering (ManipalUniversity)
Associate – Teach For India, Former Research Intern- Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Analyst- PWC