Tina Dahms (22), who lives in Cape Town, had always wanted to be a makeup artist but she ended up working as a secretary. Her parents made her doubt her choice when she was choosing courses at tertiary, because they felt it would be hard for her to get a job as a make-up artist, and the pay would be little. “My parents are business people,” says Tina, whose father owns an estate agency in Bothasig and whose mother is manager at a travel agency. “They put quite a lot of pressure on me to join the corporate world.”
Tina’s experience is common. Many parents’ expectations for their children’s future influence the choices they make in their careers. Nompilo Jojo, a grade 12 teacher at Clydesdale High School, says this is common with parents who lack knowledge about their child’s career choice, and worry that they will not get a well-paying job. “But parents should trust their children enough to allow them to make their own choices. At the end of the day it’s the child that will be doing the job, and if they love it they are likely to work hard at it,” says Nompilo.
Career development consultant Annette Miller says that, generally, parents expect their children to go to university, even when they lack the interest or marks needed for the course. “They think that any course done outside of the traditional university environment is second rate.”
This is where career guidance helps. Career counsellors use a questionnaire and conduct an in-depth interview with the student to gain more insight into their personality and interests. They also use psychometric tests to measure personality and behaviour styles to know more about the client’s work values and interests. During the feedback session the counsellor will make suggestions and recommendations on careers that fit the client’s profile.
“Very often, sharing the results with the parents causes a shift in their mind as they begin to see their child and their needs more clearly,” adds Miller.
But it’s usually parents who are already open minded who come in with their children for career counselling, says Nthabi Afrika-Mabuto, an educational psychologist and student counsellor at Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s Bellville campus.
When counsellors cannot step in, the child has to take charge and convince the parents of their career choice themselves. To do this effectively, Nthabi recommends that they do their research first. Find out what jobs fall under your career choice, what characteristics and skills are needed for that field.
Furthermore, find out what you are likely to earn at different levels of your career. What would also impress your parents is to show them examples of successful people working in your field. By doing your research, you prove to your parents how dedicated you are to your chosen career, and hopefully they will come on board.
Tina adds that her parents offered her a compromise: She could take a course in cosmetology if she completed a secretarial diploma. Although she was not quite interested in the course, she now has a permanent job at InventCommerce with a good salary. She will still pursue her cosmetology dream and study it part-time.
Image: Masixole Feni
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