The Frustration of Helping Your Child Choose a Career
Do you have a son or daughter who has difficulty deciding on a career? Or maybe it’s you who is undecided? This discussion offers some insight.
I recently tried to help a friend whose adult son didn’t know what to do for a career. He has a good education; he’s intelligent, well spoken and clever. She brought him up well.
But somewhere along the way he never found the area of interest that he wants to pursue for a lifetime career.
I can understand this situation because I wasted by first year of college back in the late ’60s…
I listened to someone who told me to major in mechanical engineering. That was not my interest. But lucky for me I discovered the vocation of my dreams in that first year and switched my major to Computer Science. I found an interest in being able to tell a machine what to do. I guess I was a control freak. Ha Ha. This ended up being my lifelong path.
Being that I almost didn’t discover my calling, I always felt a need to help others who had a similar dilemma. So the rest of this article is the exchange of emails I had with my friend while guiding her about her son.
His particular situation may not relate to yours or that of your son or daughter, but the context of the discussion generally applies to anything. Hopefully you’ll find some use out of our email exchange of ideas.
The Frustration of Searching for a Job
Exchange of Ideas
Me: How is your son doing with his new job?
Friend: He quit a couple of weeks ago. He discovered he didn’t like what he was doing. The job was too stressful for him.
Me: Sorry to hear that. What was the problem?
Friend: He didn’t feel comfortable with the way management required him to conduct business.
Me: How was it affecting him?
Friend: He was a complete mess. He was on the verge of a breakdown so I didn't say anything to him. It's terrible and very upsetting to me. So I have to ignore it and let him figure it out for himself.
Me: You're doing the right thing letting him figure it out. I can imagine how you are feeling. What's he doing? Is he looking for another job or taking a break?
Friend: As far as I know he is looking, but I don't ask him any questions. I will just get into an argument with him.
Me: I can understand that.
Friend: It's really hard for me to even talk about.
Me: Sorry to hear you are going through that. It must feel very discouraging.
Friend: Yes, very. And what's worse is I can't help him. Whenever I try, it just makes things worse.
Me: What does he need right now? What does he want to accomplish?
Friend: He wants a job that he likes and that is all he knows and when you give him ideas he says I don't want to do that. He thinks because he has a degree he should get a job that pays well, yet he doesn't want to do anything that I recommend, so it is very frustrating for me.
Me: What is his degree in?
Friend: His degree is in Human Resource Management.
Me: Did he take that subject because he found an interest in it? Or was it just to get a degree? What I’m getting at is this: My degrees are both in computer science because I found it the niche I wanted to be in. I could care less for the degrees themselves. It's the subject that counts.
Friend: He didn’t really have a focus while he was in college.
Me: But is he interested in the subject he pursued? If not, maybe he needs to forget about his degree and look for something else. Start with what he is interested in. Not from a job perspective, but in life in general.
Friend: The problem is that he isn't interested in anything!
Me: So I imagine that he would not want to be a consultant with Human Resource Management either? This would make use of his degree and give him the advantage of not having to answer to anyone. He'd have his own business. Not as secure, but maybe it's the path he may want to consider.
Friend: Nope. He doesn't want to do that.
Me: Thinking outside the box, what does he do now? I mean non-job related, other than sleeping and eating.
- What are his passions?
- What does he like to talk about with his friends?
- What does he find himself doing when he's not thinking about work?
- What have you noticed he does that could reinforce his self-esteem?
This could all be a clue to discovering where to turn. Point is: there's always something when one thinks outside the box.
Friend: He likes reading, writing, basket ball, drawing, healthy foods, movies, museums, and his smart phone apps, not in that order. I really do appreciate you trying to help me.
Yesterday he came by and made me dinner. He made several eggplant casseroles. I could only eat one, it was so filling that I didn't eat anything else the rest of the night.
Me: So he does have a lot of interests. Are these also his passions? Do any of these things reinforce his self-esteem? That might be the area to focus on.
You left out "cooking" and that seems to be the strongest based on the casseroles you just mentioned. Did he consider getting into that? - Maybe working in a restaurant. Or for wedding planners - you know, those types of places that help organize and arrange wedding parties with all the food and stuff.
As for the list of interests you just mentioned, putting a couple of things together could become a career path, especially if it's a passion too. For example, two of his interests: museums and movies. He might consider working in a museum with their movies and entertainment department.
Friend: I asked him several times about being a chef. But I was knocked down. Anyway this gives me a lot to think about.
Me: If that doesn't help, here are a couple of other thoughts:
He can make use of all the resources of the career office at the college where he got his degree. That option usually never expires.
He has friends. He can use his connections to network and meet people working with any of the things you just mentioned to learn about opportunities in those fields.
Friend: That's a good thought. I'll find a way to get these ideas to him. Thank you so much.
Applying The Ideas
This was simply an exchange of ideas via email. Your situation probably doesn’t even come close. But if you take the idea of thinking outside the box and try to discuss options with an open mind, something may suddenly strike a chord.
It’s not easy, especially if one does not know what they like to do. But notice how at first her son had no interests, and then after further discussion it came out that he actually had a lot of interests.
Sometimes it takes a lot of back and forth conversation to find opportunities that can make a difference. In her case discussing it with her son was challenging. It was frustrating for both of them, but this needs to be overcome so that the dialogue can continue.
© 2016 Glenn Stok
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