Choosing a career is the most important life decision made in adolescence, it is a part of personal identity success and, in reality, is more of a permanent choice than choosing a partner, considering that 50% marriages today end in divorce. According to researchers only 70% of high school juniors are aware of their future occupation choice. The rest don’t know much as of now and will choose once this vital stage is over. Out of confusion and fear, they will choose any option – the one of their friend, the one their mother told them, the one that their girlfriend or boyfriend likes, the one they can, the one their father finds prestigious and so on.
Once we realize the relevance of choosing an occupation, we need to think about what kind of people we are when it comes to making a decision. However, self-knowledge is not an easy thing to do. Therefore, some young people are going to take a series of psychological tests, with the mistaken idea of attending an event, similar to a tarot reading, “to be told what they are good at and what they can do for life”. I have found that these young people are almost never satisfied with the results of the psychological tests, some are more confused, others are angry and what happens next will depend on their personality. There are some who, fearing commitment, let others take the decision for them or simply don’t decide for them, they become paralyzed and ask society to give them some time not to think: they leave hajshará, study English or computers or go to work with their father or uncle, to see what happens. There are other young people who have a particular fear of failure, are interested in studying, are informed, are looking for options but cannot choose because they fear they will not stand out, not be successful and could spend eternity looking for an option finding that there is always something better than they thought.
Some of them choose a career because they think it is successful and once they are in it, they move on to another and so on until they arrive desperate to a professional asking for help. It has been found that 30% of high school students will have certain problems choosing a future occupation and require the assistance of a professional to do so. If we become aware of this problem, it will be easier to ask a professional for help in a preventive way instead of waiting till the teen reaches a desperate point. The problem of decision is linked to the development of identity, in a way that an arrest in this process will require deeper psychological help to solve it.
And what about their parents in the meantime? Clinical experience shows them desperate, with too much desire to help their children without knowing how and not being able to explain why there are more problems now to choose an occupation than in the past. Let’s look at the circumstances: there are currently more than 220 degrees to choose from and more than a thousand technical careers. Studies conducted at the beginning of this millennium warned us that technical careers are the careers of the future. A wiring technician has more income than a communication graduate, a manicurist earns with each client at home the equivalent of a psychological consultation, of course we are talking about specialized technicians versus professionals from one of the most offered careers in Mexico. However, parents want their children to have a professional career in spite of the socio-professional reality of Mexico, that is, in spite of the supply and demand for employment in their locality. It is time to inform us about the situation in our country and what kind of professionals it requires. Informing ourselves about the socio-professional field is an important task that must be the consequence of self-knowledge. That is to say, you don’t buy the furniture before buying the house, just as you can’t find out about the races, their supply and demand as well as the field of work before you reflect on the following question: Who am I? That’s right, we have to look within ourselves for the personality characteristics that define us, the activities that we like, those that we dislike, our abilities, potentials and limitations, our values and what we intend to achieve in the future with the chosen occupation. Then we’ll turn to the world of information. This is not an easy task either, because although in this day and age we are updated with a click on Google, scholars have proven time and time again that in this information age what stands out is disinformation.
One of the consequences of this problem is that out of 220 degrees that exist, only 10 are the most populated, that is, 56% of the population of the Mexican Republic is enrolled in careers like : Accounting, Law, Systems Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Communications, Psychology, Normal Educators, Administration, Architecture and Medicine. This translates to seeing engineers driving a taxi or doctors in the restaurant industry. But above all, in the desperation of many who, after finishing a profession, do not find work.
Once after a conference at a community school, a very angry mother confronted me with a hundred teenagers saying that studying was not the only option for young people, that it was expensive to send their children to school and that school was not for everyone, that there were very successful people without a profession and she gave the example of the inventor of Youtube. With sadness and concern, I replied that 53% of the Mexican population between the ages of 15 and 19 do not attend school, so they will not have the opportunity to study a career either. And while it’s true that we live in an age where a football player like Kaka can earn ten million euros a season, which means much more than Donald Bitzer (inventor of the plasma screen) is given annually to do research. It is also true that Jawed Karim, inventor of the Youtube site, did it without having finished a degree, but few know that despite being a member of a large empire he returned to Stanford University to finish his studies. What is definitive is that among our young people, there are very few Kaka or Karim, and we have no choice but to study in order to compete with the productive force of our country and to be able to become independent from our parents and make a home. In Mexico, a messenger can earn 3,000 pesos a month and an industrial engineer can earn 18,000 pesos a month (see http://boletin-infomail.typepad.com/2007.pdf ), and it is true that in this society we need messengers as well as engineers, the decision is up to the young people, what kind of occupation do they want to have? What do they care more about, salary or a job that they are passionate about? What is more important, money or prestige? What does success mean to them? The truth is that today, the more prepared you are, the more successful, prestigious and rewarding you can be and the more you can become. This means, speaking at least two languages, having postgraduate studies or technical specialization, and doing exchange programs with other universities to get to know other cultures. And this is only possible when we have chosen an occupation that we are passionate about and that matches the occupational needs of our community.
The time when businesses were being passed from generation to generation is dying out, family businesses are becoming less and less, leaving young people looking for their own income and parents offering them the tools to choose an occupation which gives them a lifestyle.
When we choose something, an activity, a piece of clothing or a dish to eat, we also renounce something. That is why we say that every choice involves a loss and every loss involves a grief. This is a necessary state of pain to say goodbye and to get rid of things, situations or people that we cannot have, realize or remain in them. However, the grief that is part of choosing an occupation is different because it holds the promise of a better future. To choose an occupation is to choose to be an adult, not easy at this time when we all want to be children without responsibilities, of pure pleasure without obligation, of effortless enjoyment. This difficulty is the product of the post-modernity that brought with it uncertainty and has left us with the only alternative of turning our eyes to values, to the solidity of permanence, to stability.
How to choose an occupation in the light of post-modernity? Parents have the difficult task of understanding that it is their children’s responsibility to choose an occupation, which does not mean deciding for them. We know the fact that our children are growing up means mourning the loss of the small and dependent children who needed much more from us to be able to do their activities; the parents of young children are idealized, perfect, they are the ones who know everything and do everything well, while the parents of teenagers are the obsolete ones, the ones who know almost nothing, the ones who are out of fashion and therefore, the ones who are hardly taken into account anymore.
Friends and other adults replace parents by making tolerance a difficult and unique task for parents of adolescents. This brings mixed, ambivalent emotions: on the one hand, a loving taste for seeing them grow up and capable of doing things, and on the other hand, pain because they have displaced us, because we are no longer indispensable as when they were little. We will have to give up our leading place in society for the love of our children, and that is a narcissistic and painful loss for us. Even if we know very well and understand that this is part of the life cycle, we have to be prepared. As we are good players of the life, we will have to give them our place, but not without a cost of loving pain.
While the task of adolescents is to take charge of this vital moment, to find a way to know themselves, their interests, values, abilities, their way of being and informing themselves: to know what happens beyond the borders of their room or the fashionable den. Occupational identity is a task that is renewed throughout life, with every job, every achievement, every failure; we live an adventure that allows us to know ourselves.
There are no recipes for success, you have to know it to taste it, venture to try it and dedicate yourself to enjoy it.