One of my favorite books growing up was Lois Lowry’s The Giver. Without giving the plot of the book away, one theme of the book I found interesting was in the way careers were assigned. A committee of elders held a community ceremony, where new 12 year olds learned what their profession would be for the rest of their lives. This process may seem very different from the way we make career decisions, but there are forces that lead to limited career options. Today I will share my thoughts on the impact of one of those forces: limited career exposure.
When I ask my clients what they are interested in pursuing, I often hear: doctor, teacher, or lawyer. These are great careers but why are these so often mentioned? I rarely get someone that tells me they want a career as a patent agent, for example. Although there is nothing inherently good or bad about picking a specific career, I want my clients to be able to branch out and consider all options and make informed choices.
A limited exposure to careers is caused by different factors. In a person’s inner circle of family and friends, perhaps the people they know are mostly working in schools or in the health field. Choosing a career in these fields may seem more realistic and doable because of the exposure and also because they can get advice from family and friends on how to break into the field. There is an added barrier to choosing a career when no one in your immediate circle is familiar with it. It can be a hard and lonely road if there isn’t a mentor there that can teach a person what training they received, how they landed that first job, what to look for, what new trends to think about, and other important questions.
On the other hand, perhaps people hear that only certain careers are appropriate for men and only certain careers are appropriate for women and with this in mind, many career options are eliminated without a second thought. I sometimes wonder how many brilliant minds we are losing in each industry because a person didn’t even get a chance to consider the possibility of being involved in the industry.
Sometimes people do get lucky and they stumble into a career that meets their passions and strengths and it gives them joy to go to work. I am eager for a way that this can be done more purposefully from the very beginning. With limited time and resources, people need to be given as many choices and options that are available, without needless elimination of career opportunities. Unlike the people in The Giver, there is a whole world of career opportunities for people in our society to explore and to be encouraged to investigate.
What are your thoughts on career exposure? How did you go about choosing your professions?
Jackie Torres is a counselor in Colorado with a particular interest in the world of work. She enjoys helping people find what makes them feel strong and energized at work. She is also learning to play the guitar.