Recently I was talking to a good friend about her teenaged son. She was concerned about the kind of career he was going to choose. It seemed to her that nothing got him very excited.
My friend, on the other hand, is someone who is really passionate about what she does in her work. Her career is part of her identity that she values and it surpasses a 9-5, Monday to Friday timeframe. Her work is a source of inspiration for her and it is a channel through which she feels fully alive.
In our conversation, my first suggestion was to remind her that her son had lots of time to discover his direction. Finding your right path doesn’t happen at the same time for everyone. And it can be a source of frustration for a young person to feel like everyone around him has their life figured out but him.
Secondly, I suggested that her son may be on a different part of the work-to-live spectrum than she is. If she is on one end in which what she does is an expression of who she is there are still a lot of people who are successful in what they do, but don’t feel the same as her. These people work to live in a different way. They are individuals who are good at what they do, are of benefit to others and give 40 hours of committed service to an employer they are proud to represent. And at the end of the week, most of the time, they leave that identity behind and are grateful that working hard affords them the personal life they want.
I shared with my friend that I know her son to be a hard-working person who seems to have a good head on his shoulders. There is a great chance he will translate this into a career he loves. His relationship with his work may end up being a passionate love affair like hers or it may be more a mutually-rewarding friendship. Both options are very healthy and generative.
My best advice to my friend is to support her son in exploring many career opportunities to find activities that are aligned with his unique set of skills and interests and explore for himself what kind of relationship with his work he’d like to have.