Psychology for Living

Gwen Randall-Young
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Career Choices: Supporting Our Children

"About 80 per cent of people are unhappy at work, and 20 per cent are happy. Our culture has separated work from passion, and taught us to prefer a higher paycheck to higher happiness. That mistake costs us our souls." ~ William S. Frank

A parent's job certainly is to help their child prepare for the future. It can be a daunting task for some to figure out what they want as a career. How can you really know at 16 what you will be happy doing at 35? No wonder some students are overwhelmed when it comes time to decide what they will do after graduation. It is even more difficult when you have friends who have been certain about their career path since age twelve, and are ready to go.

If a student is unsure what to choose, I am a strong advocate for a year off after graduation for work or travel. This gives the individual time away from studies to reflect on the rest of his/her life. As parents we can support them in taking time to get to know themselves and see in what direction their heart pulls them. It is not our job to push them into something just so we will not have to worry that they might not choose to go back to school.

It is also not our role to choose for them. Unfortunately, sometimes parental egos get in the way, and even take over. The parent who sees his daughter as an attorney cannot hide his disappointment when she really longs to be a hairstylist or massage therapist. The one who wants his son to be an engineer just like he is may keep telling him he will live a life of unhappy poverty if he pursues his love of art or music.

The child who argues with the parent in favour of his own interests is healthier than the one who says nothing, but carries tremendous angst over the prospect of disappointing a parent who holds a dream for him. I have worked with young people who feel they cannot even broach the subject of a different career path because the parent has advocated for a particular one as long as he/she can remember. We must let them find, and live their own dream.

I believe each young person has a set of gifts and talents to bring to the world. We owe it to them to give them the time and encouragement to find their own true path. It is not just about work, or a job. It is about quality of life, sense of satisfaction, fulfillment and purpose. We often say life is too short to be in a situation that is not good for us. It might also be true to say life is too long to work at something you chose just to please others, while your heart is not in it.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning Psychotherapist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books or cds, visit

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