ia play

the good life in a digital age

the trouble with careers advice

The main memory of my school’s careers advice was an interaction that went something like this:

“You appear to be rather good at science…have you thought about being a scientist? No? How about a science teacher?”

I don’t remember anyone ever suggesting that there were hundreds of thousands of jobs out there that don’t appear in Happy Families.

And the range of generic professions suggested seemed to be based on what subject you were better than your peers at. Enjoyment didn’t come into it.

I was very good at physics and I even found the lessons moderately enjoyable.  But left to my own devices, physics didn’t particularly feature in the way I spent my time (barring a bookish interest in astronomy).

I played with my dog, went swimming, spent a lot of time on the swings, read heaps on books, wrote stories, sketched, painted, cooked, drew maps of fantasy places, drew plans for imaginary buildings and gardens, and made models of buildings and towns.

That stuff made me happy (and it still sounds pretty good today).

Reading that list, it does sound like architecture (the proper kind) would have been a sensible direction. At 15 I did a stint of work experience at an architects practice and I had great fun clambering around building sites and drawing up plans.

The architect got me to draw up a plan for my dream house.  He had a look at how I was getting on and suggested I should be more ambitious because:

“this is the last chance you’ll have to design a house that you actually like”

And that was the end of my career as an architect.

At the heart of his comment was a real problem with careers advice. Even if we can direct children to learn crafts that they will enjoy that doesn’t ensure they will enjoy the day-to-day realities of their work.

Written by Karen

June 8th, 2010 at 6:23 am

Posted in career,happiness