It seems like everyone and their mother is constantly asking you about what your next steps are in your career plan. You have some idea on what your career development plan looks like, but you don’t have all the answers. When you talk to your friends, classmates, or trusted colleagues, that layer of ambiguity seems normal. Everyone has a viewpoint, and suddenly, those well-intentioned opinions are on high volume. How do you set out your goals with the weight of expectations from those closest to you?
If you come from a long line of [insert profession here], that lineage might feel like a bag of bricks you’re expected to carry. Or your family might be pressuring you to set up the family lineage for the generation to come. It’s a lot of pressure, and those family expectations on your career choice might seem like your path has already been set. From your family’s perspective, they’re just offering sound advice. They know what they’re talking about after all because they’ve lived longer (baseline credentials). They want you to have stability in your future whether that means career growth opportunities or financial freedom.
According to the Canadian University Survey Consortium, 56% of about 18,000 Canadian students surveyed in 2019 stated that their motivation to attend university was due to meeting their family’s expectations. That need for family approval is massively impactful not just in your school days, but also in your career plan. In the same survey, a whopping 78% of students confirm they talk to their parents/family about their career goals. This paints a pretty picture where your parents’ approval is needed to frame your career plan on your wall.
But have you had time to really question if that’s the right career choice for you? To weigh the pros and cons? Or are you bombarded with their projections of a career path that might not be right for you? Aren’t you the one holding the brush to this canvas?
It starts with questioning the options before you. Let us introduce you to Brigitte Vitali, Insights Leader at Environics Analytics. During her days at the University of Toronto, she was in Life Sciences which meant everyone around her knew exactly where they were going to end up more or less: as a doctor or in research. But Brigitte knew these two options weren’t right for her and had to figure out how the program could elevate her interests and be the bridge for her career choice. Once she had developed her own road map, she persisted in following it despite the many undermining reactions from friends, family, and classmates.
Getting an opinion from family is only one side of the many-faceted coin of life. A second opinion never does any harm. There are many career choices out there waiting for you to uncover. It takes work and time to find them, but they are out there. Don’t limit your horizons with just your family’s outlook of the future, and measure everyone’s opinion equally while taking what works best for you.
What are your strengths? It might seem like a simple question so try not to overthink your answer. Go with instinct and back it up with evidence from your past. Finding out what you’re good at really does lead you down a road with endless possibilities. Don’t forget about the enjoyment factor too. For Brigitte, she knew what she didn’t enjoy (biology) and what she did enjoy (hello geography!). She had to figure out how to make those two work for her favour, and when she did, her career plan became clearer.
Maybe you’re like Brigitte where you’ve homed in on your strengths, or maybe you need more time to make a confident decision. During your school days, the first few years are an exploration phase where introductory courses are a perfect way to answer all those questions: Is this something you like enough to pursue and curious enough to see future possibilities? Or if you’re not a fan of more coursework, then joining extracurriculars like a club is also an option and will help with your resume building. Beyond school, remember that most people don’t fall into their perfect dream job all at once. It takes some time to explore, to try, and even to fail to lead to that role that’s meant for you. With entry-level positions, there’s a great learning curve for you to test your strengths and get a feel for the long haul.
Remember to not limit yourself to just one box. Take inventory of your strengths. Whether you make a list of them or keep them filed away in your memory palace, your strengths will continue to evolve. Like a spider’s web, from one thread to another, all connecting to one big net that’ll end up catching your perfect role.
Making a stand on what the best career choice is for you against those you look up to and respect is daunting, to say the least. Here are a few approaches to help you find your voice to speak up:
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There’s never going to be an easy way of dealing with career pressures especially from those with the best intentions. Everyone might seem like they have all the answers, but that was their career journey and this one is yours. You’ll find your answers your way. It’s all about finding a balance: listening to the insights and opinions of others while setting your career development plan to your standards.