Thursday, September 27, 2018

My husband and I often discuss our own career paths. He knew fairly early on that he is going to be an engineer like his older brother. He was not a "straight A" student but excelled in math and physics while doing an absolute minimum to pass other subjects. I, on the other hand, cared greatly about my grades, earned straight As throughout my schooling career, and... had a vague idea of what I want to do with my gifts. I was very interested in inorganic chemistry in high school, invested my own money into lab materials, did experiments on my own free time, but... my parents did not think that this direction is healthy, because most of the chemistry majors from our local university ended up in chemical engineering jobs dealing with hazardous materials and poor working conditions.
Luckily for my parents (and for myself), I also developed an interest in coding in my last year of high school and decided to follow their footsteps and apply for a System Engineering program in our local Radio Engineering University. Granted, I am not using my degree at all now, but knowing programming helped me find my first job in the United States and led to 25 years of working in various roles in booming high tech of the United States.
Neither my husband nor I officially "switched gears" for our current jobs, but he spent all his working years as a software engineer despite his degree in electrical engineers, and I managed products and projects with my system engineering degree. Considering our own career progression, I am trying not to get too caught up with what Smarty chooses to study in college. In our modern world, it's likely that her own path will not be straight as an arrow as well, especially since she is currently not considering careers with clear progression, such as medicine. I also don't think that she has to go to an Ivy League school just for prestige. It's a lot more important for us right now to see her exploring different options and staying open to different possibilities.
It's really hard to say what Smarty will choose eventually. She is a smart kid who enjoys many different things, but does not have an overriding burning passion for any of them, at least not yet. I encourage her to think about her future not just from her own point of view of "what sounds good", but also consider what problems interest her and how she could use her gifts to really leave her mark on the world. I feel that in the next few years a lot will depend on her teachers, other adults, and older kids that she interacts with in her "mixed age" classes. I hope that she is exposed to new opportunities every year just as I was exposed to my first personal computer in my last year of high school, which changed my direction completely.
What I hope most of all is that Smarty will not lose her curiosity and her desire to engage with new things, that she won't "pigeonhole" herself too early. I am glad that she is very enthusiastic about math and science and currently wants to be a researcher (even though she is not quite sure what she will be researching). She also knows that good writing and persuasive speaking skills are critical for pretty much any career that she might want to pursue, and she already plans to allocate enough time in high school to take an elective speech and debate class. I find it encouraging that she is spending time thinking about her future and does some planning beyond simply getting good grades. Hopefully, in about 4 years she will have a picture of what interests her as she applies for college admissions. It's hard to believe that this time is not really that far away!

Your Turn
Do your kids have an idea on what they want to do when they grow up?

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