ON THE JOB
Kate discovers careers are a work in progress
It’s interesting how much your views change over time, how much kids teach you and how much experience can chisel away at your preconceived ideas. Before I had kids, I imagined it would just involve producing miniature versions of mine and my siblings’ childhood.
They’d go to kindy and then school, then to university, then go on an OE with their best mate, then come home, get a job, a house and a partner, and settle down. Easy. But best-laid plans and all that.
My eldest son was the first to challenge those ideals for me. He hated school, couldn’t wait to leave and had no desire to go to university. It bewildered me as to what he would or could do if he didn’t take that particular path.
“Don’t sweat it, Mum,” he’d say, triggering me into a full-blown sweaty mess of anxiety. I was surprised he finished his final year of school as every day was a battle, but he did it.
“Now what?” I asked him, trying not to sound panicky.
“Chill, Mum,” he’d reply, leaving me anything but chill.
Eventually, he decided on a gap year, which to my mind was code for “do nothing”. But he got two jobs, found new mates and seemed to be having a ball. At last he stumbled into something he loved and is away and laughing, which is so often the case these days.
Kids don’t necessarily know what they want to do at 16 or 17. It’s a big, bad world out there, where competition is fierce. If you have no set agenda or direction and your internal GPS isn’t programmed towards a single career path, then it’s tough.
Recent studies showed up to two-thirds of uni students are not completing their degrees in the three-year time frame. Many quit halfway through, some chuck it in the first year, others take a longer, different route along the way and do it over several years.
We had an electrician over the other day. He was 19. I asked him if he was enjoying it. He said he was loving it – that he’d started uni, thought that was what he should do, but got there and found out it wasn’t for him. He chucked it in for a trade and hasn’t looked back.
Another recent study showed that when it came to money, tradies over time earn more than uni graduates.
Kids should be free to follow their passions and find the paths that suit them. We are quick to box them up and put expectations on them, but how much of that is a reflection of what we want, what we did, or what we think they should do? Besides, we are raising a different breed – a newer generation.
Our children will be part of the gig economy – they may never own houses, they may never clock-in nine to five or aspire to be part of a big corporate. And actually, there’s nothing wrong with any of that. I should have taken my son’s advice earlier and not sweated it.