Why You Shouldn’t Always Go to Your Parents for Career Advice Follow Your Own Path, Not Your Parents
August 15, 2017
For generations, we have been told that achieving the “American Dream” is the ultimate goal for prosperity and success. Working hard, building your way up on the socioeconomic ladder, and finally retiring with a nice pension plan. While respecting our parent’s highest and best intentions to see us work our way in the career world in the same manner as they were, parents have to understand that America’s career path to success has changed dramatically.
Us millennials are dealing with workplace issues that older generations cannot begin to imagine much less recognize and strategize around. Though meaning well, parental career advice is generally dated, so we should be pragmatic about not taking such advice without careful consideration. Here are some reasons why we shouldn’t take our parent’s career advice so easily.
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The Job Market Has Changed
This is a big one because my friends and I talked about this all the time. Things are definitely not like they use to be. Luckily, I was able to find a full-time job right after college but I can’t speak for everyone who graduated. The qualifications and requirements are completely ridiculous for entry-level jobs now. Five to seven years of experience for a basic administrative assistant job? Wow, are you kidding me? Then, there are internships, but those opportunities are usually underpaid or unpaid, making them unattractive unless you’re blessed with an affluent benefactor to offset such slave work.
Add to that, the “perfect” resume’ dilemma. What’s relevant work experience? By every measure, for millennials, navigating a dysfunctional job market that is loaded with ill-conceived employer expectations is difficult if not utterly impossible to breach, and parents need to get a grip.
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Expectations Are Way Too High or Too Low
When I got laid off from my first full-time job, I was completely devastated. I was living in a different city from my parents and I had to be really creative to make ends meet. Unemployment benefits barely paid for my car note. My parent’s advice suggested that I should start over and begin looking at jobs that threatened to smother my passion and even lower my earnings expectations. Presumably, “playing it safe” is what they were going for. I found their advice discouraging and just not what I wanted to hear. I wanted to hear them say, “Eff them! It’s their loss! Now you can focus on something that truly makes you happy! We got your back! Pursue your passion!” Ugh, I so wish.
Then we have those parents that really, REALLY want the best for their kids. Those parents that put you in dance classes, piano lessons, sports, and French tutoring all at the age of three?! (Being dramatic) Yeah, those over-bearing parents that demand the most from their kids. They want you to succeed and think that placing tremendous amounts of pressure is helpful in promoting those needed skill sets for the adult life. It may satisfy the parent’s instincts for engagement and commitment, but generally, it’s not beneficial at all. There’s really no “perfect” model for achieving career success and the advice to “stick around until things get better” is detrimental with the risk of hindering your efforts to find out what really matters to you in life. You don’t want to just live, or merely survive, you want to thrive and grow.
We Have Your DNA, But We’re Still Different
Just because we have our parents’ genes doesn’t mean our aspirations and success will be the same as them. If Oprah had a daughter, she won’t be Oprah 2.0. Nope. Who knows what the Obama daughters will achieve or even aspire to be as adults. But they could never be Michelle. At the first sight of blood and having to maintain my composure to not pass out was a sure sign I couldn’t follow my mom footsteps in the medical field. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be great…even amazing in our own right!
Let’s consider Tracee Ellis Ross as an example. Her mother, Diana Ross is a legendary music icon. THE Beyoncé in her day! I wouldn’t blame Tracee if she took voice lessons or tested her musical talents, but that’s her mother’s calling, not hers. Tracee’s decision to pursue an acting and comedy career may have been influenced by her mother’s success, but her Golden Globe award for her TV role in Black-ish speaks for itself. You can inherit the talent and resources from your parents, but that doesn’t mean that’s your identity nor your true destiny. Parents can point us and guide us onto a career path but we won’t find our stride or success unless we experience what we truly are passionate about it.
We’re Making Our Own Rules
So, here’s where social media comes into play. The internet and social media have lowered barriers for millennials to enter the job market and create business opportunities from their own deliberate effort and creativity. Social media offers an open career market for millennials, especially considering the typical “9-5” employment opportunities are limited to people with tons of work experience (roll-eye emoji here*). As such, getting a college degree and a high-paying corporate job is not the ticket anymore. Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube provide a robust platform for many young entrepreneurial, business-oriented people (Joanne the Scammer, King Bach).
Parents may not see the social media world as a money-making career path and may even think of it as a silly hobby or meaningless pastime, but social media is what’s selling now. I mean there are many millennials who are banking some serious cash just by being themselves online, making the “9-5” routine less appealing and in some cases virtually obsolete.
The range of possibilities for becoming your own boss is literally endless. The so-called gatekeepers who once controlled the points of access for new talent and business opportunities are no longer necessary. Starving music artists no longer need to send mixtapes to major record labels anymore. Hoping to be discovered, they promote themselves, producing and uploading their music onto SoundCloud, curating a new form of fame. If you have a cool product you want to sell, there are social media apps for that. Aspiring authors can write and sell e-books without any start-up or publishing costs. Today, the workplace structure is undefined. There are no rules. Millennials are changing the hustle game.
We’re Not Babies Anymore
Millennials need to take accountability for their actions as well. Our parents have guided us through our first baby steps and helped us through our most awkward stages of puberty. But sorry to give bad news but they can’t protect us from everything. We’re going to make some childish, careless mistakes and will we continue to make those mistakes. Oftentimes, failure can the best teacher. We have to learn to embrace our mistakes and failures, not hide from it.
It’s time to take the training wheels off and get ready to pedal, even though we may fall a couple of times. I have been laid off and I have been fired from jobs, but I have learned some hard lessons about myself and about people. I learned from it and moved on. That’s how we all learn and grow, maturing into adults ready to take on the real world. Sure, there are risks. Endurance and grit are what we strive to develop, but it can’t be done living in our parents’ shadow.
This is our life. Our future. We get it. Our parents don’t want to see us take risks and make unpredictable career choices and we don’t want to disappoint them either. To them, our pursuits outside of their perceived norms are like throwing our lives away behind simple dreams, but they had dreams too. So, are you living your dreams or are you living your parent’s dream? Get the support and encouragement with reasoning from your parents as you pursue your passion even if it’s something that doesn’t necessarily bring financial stability. Can you imagine being financially stable and miserable? Don’t fool yourself. You got to be you and know that you deserve to be your best. Communicate with your parents and set some boundaries on the career advice.
But don’t get us wrong, we still need our parents’ advice for other things such as dealing with our obsessive, hypochondriac shenanigans (is this black mole on my back cancerous?); asking about that weird sound our car is making, filing our taxes, or teaching us the secret peach cobbler recipe. It’s never easy for our parents to watch us struggle, so you cannot blame them for promoting their point of views and life experiences. But, be sure to thank your parents for giving you life and for all their hard work and sacrifices to provide you a better life than they had. We love our parents regardless how much they meddle into our lives. Just remember to live yours.