When I Grow Up, I Want to be a . . .
Vocational Psychology. I had low expectations for the graduate course – that’s why I signed up to take it over the summer. Memories of bad guidance counselors telling me to fill out surveys that revealed my true calling as a floral designer.
Enter the professor, an accomplished psychologist who peppered us with wonderful anecdotes, sound theory – and occasional group counseling! The class itself was a microcosm of the topic at hand. Thirty students – mostly women, over 60% career changers. Our first major assignment was to write a career autobiography. What internal and external forces had influenced our career decisions? I was surprised by how many women in this group recognized a certain passivity in their career path – doing what their dad wanted, what their mom did, what was expected.
I’ll share portions of my essay another week (I was surprised by how much a vocational narrative became a poignant glimpse into how I make decisions and who/what motivates my actions). But until then, I hope you’ll humor me – because I’ve wanted to ask our blog readers this since taking the course: What were the primary factors influencing your career decisions? or Why do you do what you do? (Did you choose “it”? Did “it” choose you?)
To give the question some shape, here are some factors that often influence our vocational choices:
- Parent expecations
- Close Role models (your favorite Aunt was an EMT)
- Distant Role Models (Eleanor Roosevelt’s bio got you thinking about politics)
- Gender Expecations (“female vocations” — would include choices to DEFY such expecations)
- Local Environment (what occupations were visible in your immediate community — was it a college town? a factory town?)
- Cultural Expectations I – race/ethnicity/nationality
- Cultural Expecations II– religion
- Cultivated skill (you learned computer programming in jr. high . . .)
- “Innate” skill/talent –“born to be a . . .”
- Temperment (like to work alone; need structure; etc.)
- Personal passion (if so, can you identify the root of the passion?)
- Economic Necessity
- Education level/Access to education
- Serendipity (yes, this word appears in the professional literature — a certain opportunity falling into your lap in an unexpected, seredipitous way . . . and the rest is history)
These don’t make the books, but given our readership it’s worth adding these two as potential factors:
- Personal revelation (from prayer to patriarchal blessings)
- Counsel from religious authority figures
P.S. I could envision your answer having two parts (e.g. college major vs. actual career; first career and then home with children; home with children and then new career, etc).