A boy dressed up as a doctor

A boy dressed up as a doctor.

30-09-2020J. SERRA

I recall when I was little that I definitely wanted to be a princess when I grew up. Somewhere along the line I had noticed that Prince Andrew was near my age and that he would definitely need a wife, so ‘job done’; I would be a princess.

What did you want to be when you grew up? How has that worked out for you?
Apparently, even now when children are asked what they want to be when they grow up, many reply “superhero”; “Wizard” etc. And these type of career aspirations seem perfectly logical when we begin to understand that our children are most likely to want to become that which they see – on the TV, parents and relation’s jobs and families of their own friends. Direct experience is the best indicator of ideas for the future.

Pretty rapidly children realise that superhero and wizard are imaginary jobs, but I stood by the princess thing! I had seen Princesses on the news! I just had to figure out the career path, which of course I never did. Something to do with a lack of socio-economic placement I believe.

Recent research into young peoples’ career choices has thrown up some worrying content. Despite existing jobs changing rapidly and new jobs being invented/created at an alarming rate, our young people are sticking to tradition much more than expected.

Alison Doyle list the top 15 job aspirations of children and they are quite traditional roles such as actor, doctor, musician.

The World Economic Forum cites a major new study (Feb.2020) that gives evidence to the same trend in older children and teenagers. The article begins by highlighting:

· Young people’s career aspirations have remained largely frozen since 2000.
· Gender and social class play a big role in framing their expectations.

This surprised me – that’s 20 years ago, where we have not really addressed the experience of young people in order to explore the wealth of careers available to our children. I suspect we have all used the phrase “what do you want to be when you grow up?”. Perhaps we need to change that…….

500,000 15-year olds from 41 counties were surveyed, so this research packs some punch. The article quotes of career aspirations:

Surprisingly, they (teenagers) have actually narrowed. Now, more young people than before appear to be picking their dream job from among the most popular, traditional occupations, like teachers, lawyers or doctors. And their choices are heavily influenced by gender and social background.

“Too many teenagers are ignoring or are unaware of new types of jobs that are emerging. The analysis suggests that, in many countries, young people’s career aspirations increasingly bear little relation to actual labour market demand.”

This is a problem and I wonder to what extent we, as parents believe it is the schools or colleges role to educate and inspire our children for the future job market. The evidence suggests that schools are failing in this area, so perhaps we parents need to do something.

Our role in checking out limiting beliefs

As parents we can be on the alert for gender stereotyped statements or discussion, right from an early age. Toddlers typically do not gender stereotype and will dress up in ‘male’ and ‘female’ clothes, play ‘male’ and ‘female’ games; so, stereotyping is definitely a learned behaviour. Nowadays we call these types of generalisations as limiting beliefs. They limit our children instead of expanding the possibilities. The article goes on to suggest:

It is vital that young people don’t rule out options because they believe, implicitly or explicitly, that their future career choices are limited by their gender, ethnicity or socio-economic background. Children often base their aspirations on the jobs their parents, friends and neighbours do, and on TV and social media. Young people need to be given the opportunity to meet a wide range of people from the world of work who can help bring learning to life and show them how the subjects they are studying are relevant to their futures. If they don’t know what opportunities are out there – if they have never seen a scientist or an engineer, a male nurse or a female firefighter – how can they aspire to such jobs?

The research resulted in a project to take a wide range of employees into a school to discuss job aspirations with the students. This resulted in direct change, students re-thinking what they want to do later in life. The article concludes writing:

Every young person, wherever they live, and whatever their ethnic and socio-economic background should have the right to hear first-hand about jobs and the world of work. Who is so busy that they can’t spare an hour a year to visit a school and chat with students about their job and career route?

What can we do to help, here in Majorca? We can directly expose our own children to friends and friends of friends who have interesting, slightly ‘non-traditional jobs’; we can offer our own services to our children’s schools, or if they are dis-interested or say it’s impractical, perhaps we could create our own career fair?

Finally, when I work with young people helping them to crush limiting beliefs, expand their horizons, I ask the question “what experiences do you want in later life?” – this enables a broader discussion and allows them to work out for themselves what job experience they want and why. Perhaps as home we can resist the “what do you want to be when you grow up?” and pose the broader question of their imagined life experience and what experiences they need along the way.



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