An engineer who had come to work in India from the US was floored by how many Indians had an engineering background. As he started to work with his Indian colleagues though, he noticed a difference between them and his co-workers back home. He said “Where I’m from, we are engineers because we have to be. There isn’t any other option. We were born to figure out how things work and build things and there’s nothing else that we can do.”
Many Indians also become engineers because they “have to”, but for other reasons, either economic or because that was the career path chosen for them by their parents.
This brings up a classic issue of culture when it comes to what your job is in life. On one end of the spectrum you find a system where the elders in a family use their life experience and wisdom to choose a path for their children since they are not aware of the challenges that will come in life. Elders are also wiser to know which jobs provide a steady income and which ones are pipe dreams.
On the other end is a system where young people are invited to choose their own career in something that interests them and they would enjoy doing for the rest of their life. Study what you love and you’ll find a way to make it pay for your life.
Both are present in most cultures, and both have advantages, but which is better, becoming an engineer because your personality demands it, or your parents?
If you listen only to Hollywood and Bollywood, the answer seems a bit one-sided. On a recent episode of “The Voice”, an American singing competition, they did a feature on a young Indian girl who was auditioning. Her whole family was in the medical field and she was also expected to do the same, but she had a passion for singing and was bucking the family trend. After a fabulous performance, the American host was all too eager to go to her father and say “What do you think now?”, as if to jab him for making such a foolish decision as to waste her on medicine.
But the other side of the argument gets less press. In a world where not every dream comes true, parents are faced with the difficult task of trying their best to shield children from not being prepared for the changing world. Left to their own devices, most teenagers are not really equipped to make such big decisions. In a recent study, high school girls were asked to choose which job they would most like to have such as a U.S. Senator or the CEO of a large organization. The #1 answer by far (43%) was to be a personal assistant to someone famous. Perhaps not the best career planning.
Hopefully this is one area where we can learn from each other and help our children be passionate, and also wise.
Ever looking for new ways to understand each other,
The Training Team
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