I recently had a conversation with several girlfriends about our kids. Interim reports were out that day from school. While some of us were elated that our children were applying themselves and bringing home good grades, others were distraught. The conversation then moved to a friend who’s high school junior doesn’t know what she wants to do. The Mom was worried because the two younger children that followed already had career plans. I wish I would have mentioned my story to her.
It’s been a long time since I decided I wanted to be a doctor. At the tender age of 12, I knew I wanted to be a pediatrician. I loved kids but hated math, science and biology: core courses required for doctors. Even in high school, these subjects were ones I constantly struggled with. If I brought home a B, I considered it success.
I continued on my chosen career path because this had been my dream since I was 12. Why would I change it? The dream lasted until the first semester of college, where I took calculus 1, biology 101 and English 101. The only class I passed, even with a tutor, was English. In my defense, my tutor was a guy I had a crush on since sixth grade. I should have know it would not end well for me. But this was a turning point in my life. I just didn’t know it yet.
Let me repeat that: The kid who wanted to be a doctor since she was 12 did not pass her freshman courses required for a premed major. What now?
I moved on to something I thought I could handle since I was working part-time retail: business. Have you ever sat through an accounting class? Ick. Not for me.
The fall of my sophomore year, I took a speech communications class. My rudder came in the form of my professor who said I excelled in his class and should consider a journalism major. I graduated with a double major in journalism and public relations. I then went on, six years later, to get a master’s in publications design. Publishing was my career path and I don’t regret it.
If I had listened to my Mother, I would have been a prelaw major. She said I should be a lawyer since I loved to argue so much. She never would live long enough to see me work with 29,000 corporate lawyers, most of whom do not love to argue. Even the law firm litigators I speak with get tired of the circus wheel and move in-house. There is just too much stress in always being on and geared up for a fight.
So why, as parents, are we so worried about our teenager’s career choice? They haven’t even had a part-time job yet, but we focus so much on what they will do long term. Many people major in something, get their first after-college job and realize they hate what they do. They adjust and figure out how to use their degree in a new way. They network. They go to graduate school to pursue something else. They find their passion through experience.
The type A in me has a tough time not obsessing over my children’s career choices.
The Mom in me wants them to experience different jobs, internships and workplaces so they can find their passion.
The former teenager in me remembers three majors in college and it all turned out ok.