The Boundless Career Options of Today’s Kids
“Mom, I think I want to be a hair stylist when I grow up,” says my daughter one day, while playing with my hair.
“Really? And why is that?” I ask.
“Because I think it’s wonderful how they use their imagination and their hands to cut and style other people’s hair and make them look so nice,” she says. “I love how my hair looks after a haircut. I want to be able to do that, too.”
“Well, that’s a good enough reason,” I tell her. “Be what you want to be, but be prepared to work hard.”
“So, do you mind if I start practicing with my dolls?”
My daughter has a collection of a few dozen dolls in assorted sizes and conditions. The one thing they all have in common is artificial hair. Rather than play with them, she wants to cut and color – with crayons and markers – their hair. She’s asked me before, and at the time, I refused to let her spoil them. But now, I wonder if this can be her first, safe apprenticeship toward her ambition; after all, dolls are less likely to complain about a bad haircut.
My son, on the other hand, wants to be cricket commentator. Not a player, but a commentator. He’s more interested in discussing the statistics and nuances of the game, rather than batting, bowling or chasing leather under the hot sun. Undoubtedly, the highly articulate, knowledgeable and well-dressed commentators who are beamed daily into our living room have influenced him. He has a full set of World Cup cricket trading cards that he loves to pore over. My son may not know his multiplication tables, but he can rattle off the batting and bowling statistics of all the players from Scotland and Afghanistan.
I am envious of my children’s ambitions.
I grew up at a time when we were told to pick between a handful of professions. Sports, the arts, and other creative pursuits were encouraged as hobbies, but not much more. It was nice that you liked to paint and sing, parents said, but that wasn’t going to pay the bills. And so, we were nudged, sometimes subtly and other times more directly, toward disciplines that would better align with conservative professional paths: If you were good in the sciences, you were pushed toward medicine or engineering. If you were decent in maths, you were strongly encouraged toward a career in accounting. If you didn’t join a professional college right after school, your parents hoped for a second chance to steer you toward the administrative services.
But the world has changed for our children, thankfully. Instead of focusing on rote learning, children today are taught to be inquisitive learners, who question, debate, and then decide. They are encouraged to create and attempt. Today’s kids have many more career options ahead of them, and the options are as varied as their interests, skills and aptitudes. It is possible, now more than ever, for them to channel their passions into professions.
Twenty years ago, if you wanted to become a cricketer, you were one of thousands competing for a spot in the national team of eleven players. A child that wishes to be a cricketer today has a much wider range of leagues that enable him (though, sadly, not yet her) to achieve that dream. And with the greater number of leagues comes greater opportunities for aspiring cricket commentators. If you wanted to be a professional musician in my generation, you were staring at years of struggle with an unlikely shot of ever converting your talent into a paying job. But with the advent of music shows across a multitude of television channels and major music festivals across the country, there are now more opportunities for talent to be seen and rewarded.
However, the one thing that hasn’t changed between the previous generation and the current one is the importance of hard work. While alternative career options have opened up, today’s generation needs to be aware that to be able to thrive in any of them, they will still have to put in the hours and effort. I am often reminded of Malcolm Gladwell’s Theory of 10,000 Hours, where he states that in order to excel at anything (sports, computer programming, musical instruments), you have to put in that many hours of solid effort.
So, I suppose, I should be pleased with the fact that our home is filled with dolls with half-shaven, rainbow-coloured locks and that cricket trading cards can be found in every nook and corner. It takes a toll on keeping an organized home, but I am happy that the children are putting in hours of effort in pursuit of their passions.