This last week I took a mini-vacation, hanging out with friends from out of country. They were a family with three young adult children. During our trip, I got into an interesting conversation with the mother. Apparently, she and her husband were really worried about their youngest son’s future and his career choices. Just like his father, he was going to law school and they were concerned whether he would make it through. As she told me, the only thing that interested him was his music. The parents wanted him to pick a lucrative career, but aside from his music or law, he had no clue what else to do.
I typically don’t work with people outside of the US, but I decided to talk to the young man anyway. We ended up having a great conversation. I asked him what type of music he likes to play, which created an opening. His eyes lit up and all of a sudden, the young man who was mostly quiet during the entire trip, started talking. We talked about different genres he likes to play, the guitar technique and how he likes to come up with something different each time. It was quite apparent to me that this kid was really passionate about music.
Musicians don’t make much money, do they?
As soon as I offered the possibility of making living through music, he shut down. At his young age of 22 he already believes that making money in music is impossible. He said he likes law school and wants to continue; he cares about it, really. But I know better. I can tell the difference between someone being really passionate about something and someone who is trying to be passionate. His father is a lawyer after all, and just like most people out there, he wants to make his parents happy and proud.
“I try to be supportive, I really do” – his mom said, sobbing. “But I don’t know what to do, I am really concerned. I don’t want him to fail or struggle through life. I always cheer him on and go to his concerts, I even encourage him when he feels down about it. But then I simply tell him to choose something else, something that pays the bills and he can always continue his music as a hobby, right?”
Are some career choices simply wrong?
Sometimes reality and common cultural beliefs can make it really difficult for some people to believe in themselves. For example, imagine a young girl of 17 who is about to finish high school. When you ask her what she wants to do when she grows up, she tells you she wants to be a nurse. Her parents couldn’t be prouder or happier for her. After all, nursing is a well-paid profession that’s in high demand, no matter where you go. The chances of this young lady being unemployed or struggling to make ends meet are pretty low. Assuming, of course, nursing is her real passion and she is quite good at it.
Now, imagine a different scenario… A young 17-year-old lady who wants to be a movie star, or a rock signer or a YouTube video star. Or any other “crazy” profession in which, statistically, only one person in a million makes it through, while the rest of them either “grow up” or continue to struggle through life. Now her parents are concerned (by the way, I don’t blame them). They may try to be supportive and encouraging, but somehow, she can still tell that her parents don’t really believe in her. She is very familiar with the statistics and not as far gone from reality as her parents think. The real reason for concern is the fact that now she no longer believes in herself, no matter her career choice.
Your Child’s career is not your responsibility
I always say that the best career choice for anyone is something they are most passionate about. True, it may be easier to be successful as a nurse or a software engineer than a rock musician. Yet, there are successful rock musicians out there. And there are plenty of mediocre and unhappy lawyers, engineers and nurses out there who chose their profession because it’s safe.
It is hard to follow a dream that isn’t supported or has a low probability of working out, but if you push your passion aside, you most likely live the rest of your life with a nagging feeling that something is missing. You may reach your 40s or even 50s, realizing that you hate your job and are ready for a career change. If you are there, I am here for you. And if you have a child whose career choices make you worried, perhaps it’s best to listen to them and be there for them.