Declaring my major for the newspaper is a disturbing memory. What if I had written undeclared? Would I have been better off exploring my interests in high school than stacking up achievements? If not afraid to disappoint my parents, what major would I have written down? My interests then were languages, travel, psychology, and activism. I wanted to help people. But I could not connect my interests with careers, majors, or potential “jobs out there.” What types of a careers were out there? What could I possibly be or do? I wish I had more insight back then. Could someone have helped me? I don’t know. I didn’t have the resources within myself to figure these things out.
It is not that I hadn’t put any previous thought into it. I remember coming upon a brochure about an Asian American mental health/counseling clinic. (Rare at that time.) I could feel my heart beat faster as I picked it up. It resonated with me. I could picture myself working in that field. I showed it to my parents in a courageous moment of vulnerability. They responded something along the lines of “you don’t want to go into psychology or you will go crazy.” After that conversation I folded up the brochure and tucked it away. Looked at it once or twice and then never again.
There was another moment in high school when I thought I had moved closer to finding direction. I had taken a personality/skills inventory which was supposed to match students’ personalities and talents with potential future careers. I remember the hopeful suspense of waiting for test results and the disappointing reveal: Iron Welder. Iron welder? A door opening to a brick wall.
So as a graduating senior I had four pieces of information when it came to deciding on a major and a future career:
- My parents want me to be a doctor and I needed to be obedient.
- Counseling or mental health was not an option.
- What I am interested in does not translate into jobs.
- Interest and personality inventories are seriously flawed.
Questions for Parents: What information do your teens have when it comes to deciding on a major or contemplating a future career?