• laurieeldridge

How can our upbringing influence our career choice?

We often don’t think much about how we might have been influenced in our careers decisions. But, whether we are aware of it or not, we have likely picked up views about the world of work from those around us. Things such as society and our families have potentially had a strong influence on our views, and this is something that we’re encouraged to explore in A Job to Love.

Because we generally spend most of our early years with our parents, it’s usually from them (or another primary caregiver) that we pick up our first views about work. In A Job to Love, we’re asked to cast our minds back to what our parents said and thought about work – whether it was their own, other people’s, or work in general. What were the things what were enjoyable for them and what were the things that they disliked? Did they have any particular view or philosophy about work? What did they say when they came back after a hard day?

And then – if we were asked to turn into a private investigator, and to really examine our own views about work and the decisions that we have made: how might we have been influenced by our parents? Are there any views that we have tacitly taken on as our own, and are there any views that we might have reacted against? And, with this knowledge, are we still happy to hold these views, or there any that no longer serve us, and we can dispense with?

Another interesting question to consider is about how we might do better than our parents. In general in life, the author says, the thing that gets us to feel that we are on track is the sense that we are building on the lives that our parents have led. Traditionally, this might be living in a bigger house, or having fancier holidays. For my generation, where a house full stop is harder to come by, and where parents continually seem to jet off on fancy holidays, the marker might be instead whether we have built on our parents’ work success and have been able to avoid the problems that they experienced. I feel that there are some implicit assumptions in this question, that come from a bit of a professional middle class viewpoint, and indeed, in our book club session, our parents had some very diverse life experiences. But all the same, it’s an interesting question – how can we build on our parents achievements?

One other interesting aspect to consider is how our friends and family might (perhaps without realising it) still be influencing us, because they are invested in what we are doing now. This might be because:

  • They are used to us doing a certain job, and have pigeon-holed us in that role in their minds

  • They worry about the risk that comes with changing, and don’t want to see ourselves hurt

  • Perhaps they helped us to get started, or supported us through university, and as a result, we’d feel ungrateful changing.

Personally, I think that the worry about risk is a big one. Although parents may say that they are supportive of change and that they “just want us to be happy”, potential risks can often loom large, especially if we are giving up a “stable” job. As such, their support can sometimes not be as wholehearted as we’d like!

There can sometimes be a similar situation within friendship groups. Generally, we are brought together as friends by our similarities, and it can be surprising how similar the type of jobs amongst friends can be. For example, thinking about my friendship group, pretty much all of them have traditional, professional jobs. There aren’t any actors or gig-economy workers amongst them, for example.

Although it can be very nice having friends who are like us, the downside of this friendship bubble can become apparent when we think about changing career. We’re trying to become someone different, and therefore no longer so similar to them. And as such, we might be thought of as a little bit crazy for wanting to make this change. That’s why I think coming together as a group in CCBC is so helpful – because we’re a new group with diverse experiences and backgrounds, who can create an environment where wanting to change career really isn’t that crazy….

So, have a think – in what way do you feel that your upbringing has influenced your career choice? How might your friends and family might still be indirectly influencing you today? And - if you recognise this- how can you acknowledge this and find supportive groups who can show you that change is indeed possible?

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