Family and Friends as career counselors – Revisited

Couple years back, a cousin of my wife, a student of class XII then, was torn between her interest and  her college choice: she had been a gifted artist and painter as a child and in school and she wanted to pursue that as her career too, while her father wanted her to join some reputed  law college (because “everyone good in our family is in legal profession”). It was tough for her to argue with her parents, but finally she prevailed (I like to think I helped her in pushing this through by explicitly siding with her in animated conversations with her father, of course it was helped by the fact that this was my ‘in-law’s place’, and IIT background may have helped my case too since “IITians are supposed to be smart!”). Right now, she is in second year of a reputed fine arts college in Mumbai, and extremely happy. Of course, parents are happy too since while doing the research for this college, they found more details about how these careers (multimedia, animation..) actually make more  money now a days than regular engineering or medical professions.

I was reminded of this story when I recently bumped into this post:

http://nitawriter.wordpress.com/2006/12/10/indian-parents-are-career-counselors.

This talks about the fact that parents take over counselor’s role: . It is very true in most of the middle class settings where parents use their understanding of career and its ‘earnability’ to push their children to those  career options. Many of us would have seen examples in our circle of family and friends of students who pick a college course no because he is interested but because that is what his parents want. I touched upon this in a previous post here.

So the question is: why is this a bad thing? There are many reasons to it:

  • Child is restricted to the career options his/her parents/family know of, which  could be years behind the current trend. Situation is acute in smaller cities where parents do not get to know of newer options even years after they have been prevalent in metro cities.
  • Such a restricted choice also means it is unlikely that a given choice will be aligned with what the child is really interested in or is really good at. There have been many books written on the subject of ‘alignment of skills/interests with work’ (see Now, Discover your strengths) and so many career tests are meant to identify such an alignment. Restricted choice takes such an alignment away which is a bad thing.

But then this is toobig a topic to be tackled in a post. I am interested in hearing what you think about it.

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