By | Abhijit Bhaduri |Keynote speaker, Author and Columnist
The process of choosing a profession that will continue to be meaningful to you is forced upon us at a relatively early age. As soon as we clear the tenth grade exams most school-going children need to choose whether our chosen path will be science, arts or commerce. It is completely unfair to expect anyone to be able to exercise “informed choice”.
For a generation of Indians, career counselling in school meant helping the person deciding choices based on job opportunities. People benchmarked successful careerists in the family and in the neighborhood. The children were then told to work towards that. When we grow up in a world of scarcity, the bets that we take are also conservative. The focus is on choosing subjects where we cannot go wrong. Hence opting to study science in the final years of school meant having the flexibility to choose Commerce or Liberal Arts in college. Choosing to pursue humanities meant a point of no return. All other paths were closed.
Do we inherit our professions?
The New York Times ran a study on the jobs we are most likely to inherit from the mother or father. In their study they found that males are 2.7 times likely to share dad’s profession. Males are two times likely to share their mother’s profession. Daughters are 1.8 times likely to follow dad and 1.7 times likely to follow their mother. Parents certainly shape our view of work. It is no surprise that the children of parents who were unemployed are more likely to be unsure of the profession they would choose.
We all know of doctors, actors and politicians whose progeny have followed in the footsteps of the parents. These professions depend heavily on the goodwill of people and insider knowledge. While being known as the son or daughter of a successful actor is an advantage, by no means does it guarantee success. Think of the number of stars who have tried to launch the star-kids into show biz – not just as actors.
The children inherit not just the tacit knowledge that is needed to succeed in the profession, but they also inherit the network and goodwill of their parents. Dinner table conversations shape the children’s belief about the meaning that the parents derive from the work they do. Parents who love the job that they do also inspire their children to follow suit.
The future of work
We are now entering a world where technology is impacting the whole notion of work. Career choices do not have to be like tattoos. Once branded, tattoos are hard to get rid of; so are choices of professions. As technology is creating new jobs, we have not yet figured out how to modify our educational institutions to make the transitions seamless.
What should one choose to study in school to be an expert Augmented Reality Designer or Virtual Reality Experience Designer or Weather Control Specialists? Many professions will demand a multi-disciplinary approach to solve problems. Parental advice and its effectiveness works on the premise that the past is a good predictor of the future. When it comes to career advice, the past may have limited relevance to draw conclusions from. The influence of parents on the choice of profession may become more restricted soon.