Today I had a conversation with one of my former students (let’s call her Cath) about careers, which included a discussion on yesterday’s blogpost. We ended up specifically speaking about the convergent nature of how we decide our careers, and how your environment shapes what is (perceived to be) available to you.

This point came up in two dramatically different ways.

The first was that Cath works for a literacy NGO where she has been teaching children to read. One of her students told her that he wanted to work as a shop assistant at a discount retailer when he was older. When pressed with why he wanted to do that, he explained that his mom liked this particular retailer and it was the best place he’d ever seen.

In other words, all the information available to him was that this was the ultimate career to strive towards. And the reason that this was frustrating for Cath was that as soon as she explained how many other options were available to the child, he lit up at the ideas that existed

The second, in a great twist of irony, was that Cath has been wanting to change her career path. She dislikes the current trajectory (accounting) and would love to be involved in education. Whenever she talks about education, she lights up like a Christmas tree. And she shows her spark.

However, everyone around Cath is following the accounting path. All her friends and classmates. And her family expect her to go down that path too.

So in the same way that her student’s environment points them to working at a discount retailer, her environment points her to becoming an accountant.

And the best way to get out of this?

Incorporate influences into your environment. Have people show you there is a world outside your bubble. Find teachers, friends, mentors or role models.

And this applies to Cath’s student too. One of the best ways for them to dream bigger is to have influences like her in their life. And exposure to people from their community that have gone on to do incredible things.

We must never forget that our environment shapes our decisions. And that we can influence this environment to help us find and reach our goals and dreams.


Image was taken at Khayelitsha Mall last week friday

Blog: 328/365. Click here to read about my #365of25 journey
Song of the day: Younger - Opposite the Other
(this song fits the theme of this blog post quite nicely)
(And it's by former UCT students)