A conversation with a client recently made me think about the different ways people make career choices. She is 38 and enjoys learning languages and writing. She appears quiet, a bit shy. Her gentle face hardly reveals what she thinks as she listens attentively, without a word, to other people’ talking. And then she opens her mouth and surprises everyone with her sharp, accurate remark, warm, confident tone, and an observation that just hits it on the spot.
She studied finance at university. Her parents advised her finance, and she did not mind, it seemed such a sound option with a promise of secure future. She never really liked it. She does not hate it, she says, being reasonable she agrees that it is not a bad career and there are many finance jobs to choose from. She tried a few and quit. Money ran out so she tried again, with another company, and decided to keep it as she needs to earn her own living. But at the age of 36, she reduced her workload, now works part-time, and returned to school.
I became intrigued by the initial influence of her parents on her career and how unfortunately they missed her real interests. I wondered how often it happened and posted a quick survey on LinkedIn: more than half of my respondents said that parents influenced their initial professional choices. Perhaps that’s unsurprising: students are often unsure about their own talents and skills and only some really know what they would like to become. The fast-changing job market makes things harder: if many of the existing job titles sound exotic and abstract today, who can confidently say which skill will be in high demand and which professional groups thriving in a decade or two? Most parents take a pragmatic approach guiding kids towards what appears to be a safe choice: who does not want their children to have a secure job with good pay?
My client is now studying what she really enjoys: languages and translation, writing, and fundaments of law. How will the market respond to her newly acquired skills? She is making her first steps, picking up translation gigs from an online platform. Career transition may take some time and she knows about it as she demonstrates impressive determination and resilience. This makes her prospects good. She may keep her job as part-time financial analyst for a year or two as she grows into the new professional field, of her own choice, step by step, treading carefully so she walks into a place that she really enjoys for longer.
Author: Agnieszka Mazus, the founder of Atentamente HR Consulting and Career Coaching