Craig has completed his year 12 and selected his university course preferences. This was a challenging process. He has a clear aptitude for maths, however, the family has a well-established accounting practice. There is pressure for Craig to enter the family business upon completion of his studies.
Craig is also interested in drama, and his dream job is to work as an actor. His parents influence and investment in his private education make this choice highly unlikely for his initial career choice.
As individuals, we are a sponge to the factors that influence the career paths that we take. It starts as a young child by our observations of family members who go to work, or stay home through family responsibilities, unemployment or retirement. Their behaviour models to children their attitude to work. Parents influence their child’s decision though choice of school, subject choices, post-school preferences and attitudes.
Parents influence children by enrolling them into private education with the aim that they develop successful careers. A private school influences the child’s values, the socio-economic selection of friendships for social connections, and learning environment to enhance motivation to attain high results for greater study choices that enhance the opportunity for professional careers. Parents who select private education do so at a substantial financial cost, and may sacrifice a better lifestyle.
Research also shows that in certain jobs that parents hold, it increases the chances of their children following in their footsteps.
In other words, it is common for family members to enter the same profession as their parents and relatives.
Research shows that nurses’ daughters are more likely to follow in their parents’ footsteps. Scientist fathers have scientist daughters at above the average rate, and mothers who work in law are more likely to have sons with legal careers. In our family, many of us are teachers, and in my son-in-law’s family there are three generations of engineers. We believe that our grandson will also follow in this direction.
Other factors that influence your career direction include:
Childhood fantasies and play – many remember the question that they were asked as children and teenagers: ‘what do we want to be when you grow up?’ It may have shaped one’s thoughts about careers.
In our developed consumer society, it is common that children have the latest toys, costumes and musical DVDs to express themselves. Often, this can shape their thinking about societal and work roles.
Gender – it generally commences during childhood through play with the selection of toys that are role related. Fantasies are expressed through toys and play. Gender based careers and attitudes are ingrained deeply into society which impact how we make our career decisions.
Both men and women experience career-related stereotypes. It is common for females to pursue careers such as nursing, teaching, and administration, whilst males take on engineering, military jobs, police, trade jobs or firefighting. There are very few female CEO’s for several reasons that include gender biases.
My four-and-a-half-year-old grand-daughter says that she would like to be a nurse when she grows up, and believes that males are doctors, and that females are nurses. We are not sure how she came to learn these gender roles. Of course, the parent’s preference is for her is that she be a doctor!
Personality type – we select a career that fits our personality make up. Job satisfaction and work engagement is highest when the job engages our personality. John Holland’s theory was that work environments and job types suit specific personalities. Most people fit into one of six personality types that reflects a suitable job fit:
- Realistic – People who like to move their body in their work activities. They like the manual skilled jobs and like being athletic. They prefer to work with objects, machines, tools, plants or animals, and prefer the outdoors. Jobs include: pilot, farmer, builder, engineer, mechanic, electrician, or computer technologist.
- Investigative – People who like to find things out, discover things, analyse things, evaluate data, and solve problems. Jobs include: research, doctor, chemist, dentist, forestry, agriculture or zoologist.
- Artistic – People are artistic and innovative, and like to work in unstructured situations using their imagination or creativity. Jobs include: artist, illustrator, photographer, sign writer, composer, dancer, actor, reporter, writer, editor, advertiser, and fashion designer.
- Social – People who like to work with other people informing them, helping training, developing, and healing them. Jobs include: teacher, nurse, counsellor, salesperson, or customer service.
- Enterprising – People who like to work with other people, especially influencing, persuading, leading or managing them to reach goals for personal or economic gain. Jobs include: lawyer, accountant, business owner, manager, travel agent, music or sports promoter.
- Conventional – People who like to work with data, and/or have clerical or numerical ability. They like carrying things out in detail or following through on other’s instructions. They tend to like guidelines, specific operating procedures and read directions. Jobs include: office worker, librarian, bank clerk, computer operator, store and dispatch staff.
Our personality and attitude will also impact how we handle job challenges. Some people focus on problems and issues, others on solutions.
If you were Craig, what career choice would you make? Would you work in a ‘safe’ career to earn a living, or follow your passion? Share your ideas below in ‘Comments.’
You may also be interested in the blog Your Life Path and Career Direction Part Two
Leah Shmerling is the Director and Principal Consultant of Crown Coaching and Training, and has extensive experience in career development, life coaching, education and training.
Leah is the author of two books in careers and business communication, a former freelance writer for The Age and Herald Sun, and publisher of two accredited online short courses, Mentoring and Development and Foundations in Career Development Practice.
Leah is a professional member of the Career Development Association Australia (CDAA), a Certified Retirement Coach and is Board Certified as a Career Management Fellow with the Institute of Career Certification.