Earlier this year, students in Years Ten, Eleven and Twelve participated in an Empowerment Day where a number of excellent guest speakers spoke on a range of gender related issues. One of these speakers, Glen Gerryn, also writes on a range of other topics including two that are very topical at the moment, subject selection and career choice. This week I would like to share some of my reading from these papers as they seem very pertinent to the decisions students are currently making.
As our Year Twelve students finish their formal schooling ahead of their HSC exams in October and other students finalise their subject selections, it is worth reflecting on the shift from more traditional pathways of study to pathways that embrace the multitude of exciting career possibilities available to young people. While I know many parents tell their children they can study whatever they like at university as long as it is Medicine, Accountancy or Law, there is growing recognition that this thinking is rapidly becoming outdated.
Where in the past these more traditional career paths may have been the finest and safest routes for young people to earn a good income and provide proper status for their children, the speed of change, the rise of technology, the increase of exponential growth divisions and the move from local to global thinking means our view on what constitutes a successful career needs to change in order to align with this very different epoch.
In his article ‘Don’t Tell Your Children to Play Safe’, Gerryn comments very rightly, that ‘our current cohort of young people is the first generation in history to see the world’s first billionaire author in J.K Rowling and have witnessed the rise of the world’s first billionaire talk show host in Oprah Winfrey, the world’s original social media platform founder in Mark Zuckerberg and the first tycoon app creator, in Evan Spiegel, who at 24 is the youngest ever billionaire thanks to ‘Snapchat’.
The facts are that with access to video conferencing capabilities, HD video cameras, productivity tools, music players, word processors and access to millions of people via social media, young people have the capacity to ‘start up’, create a following or begin a movement of change from a cluttered garage or a bedroom, still decorated with Superman or Elsa, in the same way that Kings, Queens, Emperors and Pharaohs did a thousand years ago from the inner sanctums of castles and temples.
I find it fascinating that in real terms, the smartphone a young person carries in their pockets has hardware and software built in which would have cost $1,000,000 in the 80’s. With this technology they have the wherewithal necessary to access thousands of free books, catalogues and music at the click of a button or the touch of a screen. They live in a world of possibilities and more than ever before their success relies on their ability to take risks to achieve their dreams. To do this however they need to be willing to fail, to accept that failure is not fatal.
For this generation the worst thing that can happen is the boredom that comes from accepting mediocrity. They need to embrace opportunities, pursue their dreams and do the things they are truly passionate about. Life is too short for them to pursue other people’s dreams at the expense of their own.
As parents and educators, we may find this challenging, however, we need to accept that in order to be successful, many of these young people will have to forge their own path in ways that differ significantly to those we might have trod.