Ashish is a 17-year-old student of a well-known English medium school. He is studying in the 12th standard. He had scored 92 % marks in his 10th Board examinations. His parents are both doctors and want him to become a doctor also. Ashish has no inclination for biology and wants to do computer engineering instead. His parents do not listen to him and make him feel guilty that they have worked hard all their life only so that he can have a good background and support. They tell him that this is a just a phase and it would help him eventually when he would become a doctor. Earlier also he had voiced his choices to become an astronaut and then a cricketer and then a journalist. They also made him undergo a lot of aptitude tests but the results did not help them chose a career. In this confusion Ashish has consistently been scoring only @ 60% marks in his examinations; which is far below his potential. His parents are extremely worried and so is Ashish. They have tried all the methods to make him study by cutting off his play and leisure time, stopping his phone calls and not allowing him to go out with friends. Nothing seems to be working.
What is being reflected here is a lack of understanding by Ashish’s parents regarding the confusion that Ashish as an adolescent may have. Prior to puberty, the child’s concept of work is in terms of adult activities and that whatever vocational interests are expressed are linked to wishes to grow up. They are in the realms of fantasy and unrelated to actual interests or abilities. Interest and personality inventories are more effective predictors of choice of work than are aptitude tests. The transition to a career commitment may be viewed as a multifaceted form of behavior, which evolves over eight to ten years passing through a series of stages. This process has a degree of irreversibility in that earlier decisions limit the options for later decisions. Compromise is also a prominent feature. Personal attributes are in interaction with environmental circumstances and the work direction during maturation is channeled by the total situation. The transition from school to career seems to go through an initial fantasy period from middle adolescence to about 17 years of age, and is finalized by the realistic stage extending into early adulthood. After the fantasy stage, in the tentative stage, the adolescent begins to consider personal abilities and interests more seriously. The preoccupation gradually shifts from individual interests to a rough impression of the capacities required for various jobs and to values such as those vested in job status. The realistic stage goes a step further and includes the necessary compromises with environmental opportunities and the actual awareness of skills, abilities and other factors. Later the exploratory activity varies with the initiative, curiosity and aggressiveness of the individual. The significant issue in the sequential phases is the irreversibility feature – namely the fact that academic choices along the way increasingly limit the available options. Thus the time factor during this transition period is such that the later the decision, the less freedom for a change in direction. Progress throughout school becomes a key issue in the vocational goals and identity that can be established. Where work-identity becomes a pillar in the self-esteem structure, a career providing less gratification and status can trigger a mental disturbance. You also have to face the danger that feelings of discontent, failure, severe self-hatred and disappointment can develop in Ashish if he is forced into a career he is not happy with. Sometimes it can lead to a dropout from college. He may become a provocative adult who has a lot of hostility directed towards teachers and parental figures. His life may appear to be boring to him and he may seek a chance to live an exciting life and recapture or develop a sense of individuality and identity. There is a firm, aggressive and anxious desire to return to living in a hedonistic manner. There is often a wish for fulfillment of his self-image and an underlying longing for freedom and happiness without the burden of responsibility to anyone but himself. Ashish is probably alert to the effect of his behavior, achievements and goals on his parents’ self-image. He would have difficulty deciding whether he is gratifying himself or his parents. This ambivalence would make him perceive the situation as an amalgamation of pleasure and guilt. This would prevent him from consulting other experts or peers. The fear of outside influence on his identity struggles, combined with sensitivity regarding his self—image may lead him to impulsive decisions. As parents, you may feel that a career involves much more than a change of environment. It is a change from supportive, friendly relationships with parental and school authorities to those with often-impersonal authorities – institutions and corporations. There would be a change in living style and community environment and a consequent necessity to reorganize one’s orientation. In this situation if Ashish chooses a career in medicine, he will be helped by the platform provided by you. However, it is an opportunity for Ashish to break free of the restrictions provided by your limitations and work towards more independent personality reorganization. He may go through a crisis but will be able to establish equilibrium necessary for adult life.
Understanding these stages of choice of a career allows the parents to support their child find the option that suits him the best. The family status and self-concept are significant in influencing occupational choice. The self-concept is in the process of consolidation during high-school years, which gives way to development of work values in later years. As parents, probably your endeveaour should be to studying the vicissitudes of the personality-environment interaction for Ashish and how it crystallizes into career identity.