Photo by vicky adams from Unsplash

What is the role of a parent in guiding a child to their career?

Should it be Passion versus Profession? We think you might not have to choose between the two. Find out how . . .

By Team SpringUP | 10min read

Parents often advise their children to choose a stable profession. On the other hand, children gravitate towards unfamiliar, new-age options. Every parent can relate to that feeling of uncertainty around their child’s future. But maybe it is time to reflect: Does it need to be a passion or profession? Because times have changed! 

Today’s youth are less drawn to tried and tested professions. A Forbes article references a study that found that millennials are the first generation to prize purpose over salary. Also, it is now normal to have more than one calling. In a TED Talk, artist Emilie Wapnick describes a kind of people she calls ‘multipotentialites’, who have a range of jobs and interests over a lifetime. In a post-pandemic economy, more and more companies are offering flexible work arrangements that encourage people to have more than one revenue stream. So, in this climate, what is the role of a parent in guiding their child to a career?

“ What if we stop assuming that we have to take full responsibility to bring our children to the “perfect” career decision?
Instead, what if we saw ourselves as the conductors of their hidden potentials . . . ”

Nurturing the “professional imagination”

For starters, as parents, what if we stop assuming that we have to take full responsibility to bring our children to the “perfect” career decision? Instead, what if we saw ourselves as the conductors of their hidden potentials, tasked with giving them enough room so their natural abilities and inclinations rise to the surface? This takes an attitude of openness and experimentation. We call it nurturing your child’s “professional imagination” versus getting them to decide as per our perceptions of their abilities and the marketplace.

5 ways to exercise your child’s professional imagination and bring out hidden potential:

1. Convergence: It need not be either passion or profession. The trick may lie in grasping the difference between talent and passion. Talent is a natural strength that enables one to make a living. Passion is a deeper calling. By encouraging kids to follow their talents and learn relevant skills by working or interacting with professionals while developing their passion on the side, the child achieves two things:
i) They learn discipline, dealing with difficult people, and managing deadlines, and
ii) They keep their potential alive.
At some point, a convergence might be possible. For example: A child learns digital marketing (talent or skill) while following football (passion). In the future, he may be able to work in sports as a digital marketer.

2. Socialization: We like to believe we have all the answers to a child’s questions. But in our own work, we often come unstuck by speaking to a mentor. Similarly, children can learn by having conversations with people who are already living the dream. This will give them a fuller view of the area. A child may discover that the world of music (passion) requires a lot of personal branding in addition to musical talent. Or your child might understand that a career in AI requires a deep understanding of mathematics. It takes more than passion to follow one’s passion!

3. Diversity: At times, a parent may observe their child is good at mathematics and harbor the idea that the child can be a data scientist, a sought-after job today. However, one day, the child may be drawn to a graphic design course. At this point it’s healthy to enable the child to enjoy that experience as well, so they can truly know what they value. Diverse experiences, far from diluting our calling, can bring it into focus.

4. Simulation: Academic overload is the norm. This gives kids little time to experience the outside world where success depends on things beyond knowledge. To widen perspective and build responsibility, focus and teamwork, we can give our children projects – like developing a website for a relative, helping out at an event, taking up various internship opportunities. These will show us the child’s inherent abilities more than anything else.

5. Life skilling: Hard and soft skills are important. But what about life skills? Frequently it is skills like collaborating or finding meaning in difficulty that determine whether a child will reach their potential – be it passion or profession. If we give children opportunities within the community and the family to participate in activities and understand collaboration, decision making and social dynamics, they become more aware. This awareness brings them closer to who they can be as professionals.

Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels

It’s an open field, not a binary In conclusion, it’s good to remember that it need not be an “either-or” decision as we imagine it to be. The reality has shifted from a simple binary to a field with many simultaneous possibilities. All we probably need to do as parents is create an open, nurturing environment that lets our child arrive at their métier on their own. As the poet Tagore reminded us:

“ Don't limit a child to your experience for he/she was born in another time ”

 - Rabindranath Tagore

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