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The correct career

Opinion

July 15, 2020

I come from a time where a middle-class teenager had only two main career choices – becoming a doctor or an engineer. Even this restricted choice was the prerogative of the family’s patriarch.

If by any chance, the head of the family was a democrat at heart then he would at least let the kids choose either of the two. That is why primarily we see a lot of families from that time with a perfect split of doctors and engineers whereas some had either all doctors or engineers.

Back in 1985 I too was thrust into FSc (Pre Medical) to become a doctor, my father not realising that I had zero aspiration to become one. When I take stock of those formative years, I realize that I had a strong penchant for fine arts as I used to doodle everywhere and was quite good at it. However, as a simple teenager from a middle-class suburb of a conservative city I did not think that one could also study art as a subject in institutions like NCA. More so, in our times such vocations were looked down upon.

Though I actually avoided wasting a medicine degree, afterwards when it came to selecting a proper career path, I still had no proper guidance. There were countless youngsters like me who ended up with some run of the mill arts degrees which were of no interest to us. And being a scion of a middle-class salaried family with no established business to take over, I eventually ended up like a restless soul in a career that has practically imprisoned my soul.

Therefore, being a parent myself I always thought of saving my children from this lifelong misery and hence gave them full liberty to choose whatever career path they had in mind. Generation Z has its own strange choices. A major predicament of today’s parents is that 90 percent of their teenage kids stay awake all night as they are addicted to playing multiplayer online computer games. This has enticed most of them into getting unwanted degrees and education revolving around computers as a subject. And even though people like me have given full liberty to their kids to decide their career paths, we still see confused youngsters who have no idea what to do with their lives.

I am sure most of us will also agree that it is extremely unfair to spend millions on becoming a medical doctor or an engineer and then eventually ending up in professions like the police or income tax through competition examinations. It’s a complete waste of a seat in a professional college which could have been otherwise used by some other deserving youngster who may have a genuine long-term interest in becoming a doctor or an engineer. When you see people with a degree in structural engineering from the US ending up as career diplomats then it makes no sense and you wonder whose fault it is that a wrong person ended up in a wrong career.

So how do we tackle this big question of letting the young decide what career path will give them both pleasure as well as a steady income stream? First, they should identify their genuine likes and dislikes; career counselors can help to some extent but in the end it is always the kid who has to cut this Gordian knot. Parents must realize that some children may fancy teaching while some may love to become soldiers and so on. It doesn’t actually matter as there are countless options; the point is to find out and establish a perfect triangle between a child, his/her education and his/her future profession.

We as parents have to facilitate our children in finding where they would like to be after 10 or 20 years. What possible subjects of interest can help in streamlining their chosen career paths and how achievable are those targets keeping in mind potential and the finances involved. There are so many factors that have to be understood. The decision shouldn’t be based on extremely superficial facts; the pitfall is to identify shallow inclinations and a true career that gives both enjoyment and income.

Pakistan currently has around 141 million people who are younger than 30 years and this number is steadily rising whereas our domestic job market has shrunk even more due to Covid-19. Therefore, any job sector showing better prospects of employment becomes an immediate favourite of all desperate parents who are paying through their noses for their kids’ education. However, this faulty line of thinking potentially leads to a complete waste of human resources as a competent but unwilling worker is more dangerous than an incompetent but willing employee.

So, while we let our children decide their future career paths into multiple diverse fields, we as parents have to help them identify their true potential in a competitive and saturated job market.

The writer is a freelance contributor.