“Got the job, so that’s great news. I think I’m going to have to work very hard but that’s probably a good thing ”
My husband and I got this short email from our 21+ year old son Shreyas after he had landed a job in a software startup recently. But this was certainly not his dream job or profession even a year ago!
Four years back, while evaluating the choices of universities and colleges he had before him, Shreyas decided on Harvey Mudd College (in the US), a school that was reputed for its focus on high quality academics, attention to undergraduates and good placements. Three years into the program, Shreyas was more or less set on a graduate program in Applied Math- he had spent two summers doing research internships and what’s more, also pushed himself to do another major in Physics. All this while, my husband was trying to persuade him to also do computer science to enhance his chances of employability; but he said he did not want to get into a ‘mundane’ coding job. He had his way and went on to do the pure sciences majors.
Meanwhile, it was time to apply for grad school and suddenly doubts crept in. However, he went ahead and applied though, by the end of it, he was really unsure about opting for grad school just yet. As luck would have it, his outcomes were not great either and he was scrambling in the last semester (with most of his batch placed) applying for jobs.
Eventually though he landed a good job in what seems like a great little place to work in- a software startup. His interview process was more challenging because he did not have adequate background in Computer Science; luckily his rigorous quantitative training as well as what the company saw as his good attitude saved the day for him.
For all his attempts to stay away from what he thought was the ‘done thing’, that’s where he has ended up! But, he realized soon enough that this was not any other IT job- it is a young startup where standards are high, the team is charged and the work being done is top notch. So, by the time he was done with his rather long interviewing process, he was hoping hard that he would be made the offer.
So then, for someone who thought he had no ‘passion’ for programming, how did this change of heart come about? Was it a strong dose of reality (of needing a job) that caused a change in mind-set or was it the interactions with people in the company?
Also, is all that is being said about following your passion not right? What as a parent is the best way to guide your child? Here are some of my observations:
• Learn to discern true passion from a fad: True passion is uncommon! What most of us (including grown-ups) mistake for passion could be a passing fad, or an interest in an area. Passion requires commitment, discipline, hard work and all the rest of that. So, is your child willing to spend time, day after day, in that area? Is your child willing to give something up to pursue this interest? That means the kid is developing a passion.
• Stay engaged even as you ‘empower’ your child: Today it has almost become fashionable to bandy about these ideas- let your child be; allow him to discover his true interest; encourage her to explore and so on- not for a moment am I saying that we should not do this- but in this process, the parent has an important role- we need to stay engaged, without imposing, and contribute without being too forceful. Why? Because most teens are not really capable of making their own choices- just yet. They love the idea of being independent, they are excited about being left to themselves but, soon may get lost. They need guidance, though they may not realize and ask. So, as parents we must be careful about ‘abdicating’ while thinking that we are giving our children room.
• Be convinced and convince your child that being pragmatic is not such a bad thing: One argument that is always unleashed on the parents’ generation is that we did not have too many choices to pursue our careers and hence we opted for one of a few tried and tested ones, whereas today’s generation has many more options. Yes and no. While it is true that opportunities have multiplied, they are not all really equal as far as long term sustainability and ability to make a living. Some teens may not have the perspective to look into such aspects- while it is easy to get carried away with the novelty of an idea or area, it is important to also understand all the implications of making that choice. And a parent can play a role here, however unpopular it may make you at that time!
• Learning to love what you do: Ultimately, this is the clincher. I think in today’s literature on careers, pursuits and parenting, the whole mantra of do what you love is being over emphasized. Truth be told, few people in this world will have the good fortune to pursue what they love or are passionate about and make it their life long career. Look around you and see how many people you can identify. Instead, if we all (starting with us parents) live by the principle that ‘we cannot change the cards we are dealt, but we do have a say in how we play the hand’ life can be so much more interesting and positive.
And so, going back to our story, Shreyas is now really excited about his job and is discovering that there are lot of interesting nuances and challenges in programming too! He has just begun his journey of figuring out how to play the hand he has been dealt with!
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