Recent conversations with my teenage kids lead me to believe that the hubs and I may have done something wrong. We’ve done a lot right. Our kids are respectful and hardworking with good character and senses of humor. But after years of global economic uncertainty, something this younger generation must certainly have been shaped by, our kids still fear getting jobs in fields they’re not “passionate” about or that will somehow not be “fun.”
I graduated from college during a recession and recall being desperate for any employment that didn’t require me to wear a name badge created with a label maker. “Just let me through any tiny crack in a door and I’ll take care of the rest,” I thought. I just wanted a break and believed I could leverage most any opportunity. I was also especially keen on not being broke. Ever. Again. I guess you could say I was passionate about being gainfully employed in a grown-up job. Exactly what that job title would be was secondary at best during that stage of my life.
Whereas our children wrinkle up their wary faces upon discovering that the hubs and I are currently not employed within the fields we studied in college. It’s as if they fear investing in their passions if they’ll only end up in careers unrelated to what they’re currently passionate about.
When I was a kid, growing up in a blue-collar industrial town, lots of people dreamed of getting jobs in manufacturing–not because working in a factory was their dream, but because they would get a regular paycheck that could fund their dreams. This thought process seems not only unacceptable among young people today but a virtually taboo thought–doing a job you don’t “love” simply to earn a living. Gasp!
Herein is where we may have failed our children, by not regularly discussing or expressing our gratitude about being employed at all. About how grateful we are that our income allows us to fund our passions like non-profits we’re passionate about and family vacations we get to take and our kids’ college savings. Maybe we haven’t talked enough about how what we do at work may not always be fun but that it still matters and adds value not only to our employers but also to the world around us in ways that may seem intangible. That this knowledge can bring about joy in a way that may look different from having a job at Disneyland or Google.
The whole, “Discover your passion and you’ll never work a day in your life”mantra is ridiculous! Work isn’t always fun even if it’s your passion. It’s called WORK for a reason and sometimes it’s hard or boring or thankless.
This disdain for work you’re not “passionate” about seems similar to how the culture, ever since women began entering the workforce in large numbers, perceives those who choose to then exit the workforce to parent full-time. A belief that sacrificing your college degree, even for something as important as caring for one’s own children, is somehow objectionable because it’s not what you studied in school. (Of course parents are passionate about their kids. Don’t start with me. You know what I’m getting at.)
Educators may be piling on as well. In my children’s middle school, home economics classes have been replaced with a class called college and career readiness. Beginning in sixth grade, students are told to begin thinking about attending college, what they should study and which career paths might best suit them. In sixth grade! I still wanted to be the Bionic Woman in the sixth grade.
Not only are middle schoolers encouraged to consider careers they’re “passionate” about, they also spend quite a bit of time researching how much each of those careers currently pay. So the pressure is double. Not only should kids be “passionate” about their work, they should also be “passionate” about work that is well paid. Trouble is, some jobs that people could have a spark for, may not pay well, like education for instance. C’mon teachers. Is it about the passion or about the money? Cause you well know, we don’t always get both.
But here’s another truth: not everybody has an overarching passion that is career specific. Sure, the hubs will admit that he’s currently not paid to do his “dream” job. But he’ll also tell you that he doesn’t know what that “dream” job would be. From a man with more working years behind him than in front of him–he still can’t define his “passion” down to a specific job title. What he can tell you is that he’s passionate about being with people. He’s energized by conversation, is a great communicator, is unafraid of conflict and wants to help improve people’s lives. That said, he could potentially be employed in over a dozen different fields. In a dream job? Maybe not. But are we living the American dream? Absolutely. Plus, he can sew a button on a shirt and cook a meal from scratch, something he likely learned in home economics.
I understand the pressure in today’s economy to want our children to be college educated and I believe in the value of higher education. (Although some are beginning to question the value and that’s a topic for another discussion.) But, I do wish we had talked more to our kids about the value of a hard day’s work in whatever field they find themselves in. That living your passion might not be as simple as following a clear-cut career path. Your passion may be bigger, broader and harder to define than a job title.