Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Career Choices

My parents grew up during the Great Depression. My father, an exceptionally bright man, never went past grade 10 due to the financial pressures and costs associated with trying to keep him in school. He dreamt about being a lawyer but never became one; instead, he became a salesman in the men’s and boys’ fashion industry.

My parents grew up in a time with many others who were immigrants who had left behind professions and careers in other countries, only to do more manual labor and hold lower paying jobs in Canada due to their lack of English language capabilities. They instilled in their children the need to study hard and become a professional (a doctor, dentist, accountant, lawyer or engineer), and I grew up amongst peers who were driven to do just that.

Today, I continue to find the children of immigrants to be hardworking and driven to excel at school, in an effort to become a professional.

My children, however, are the progeny of the generation of people driven to excel in school. Our parenting style is more relaxed (I am generalizing here; of course, there are exceptions), as we live in a society that allows people to dream and offers them the opportunity to realize their dreams. Neither of my daughters have any interest in science, math and engineering (the so-called STEM subject: science, technology, engineering and math). One daughter would like to study art history and possibly curate a museum or art exhibit. The other would like to be an actress. Many of my younger patients now dream about becoming a chef. One cousin loves working with glass art. A nephew is an illustrator working on TV and movie productions.

We are incredibly fortunate to live in a society that has matured to the point where we now value art in all of its forms — visual, auditory, gustatory and tactile — and are willing to pay a reasonable fee to access it. Now, people can dream, work toward making that dream a career and anticipate they will be able to make a living wage pursuing those goals.

When I talk with my patients and learn about their careers, I am amazed at the variety of opportunities that are out there. We don’t learn in school how to do what most people do in their careers, and I think that is very cool.

One thing I am fairly certain, though, is that the pace of change is so rapid that I am starting to see people start in one career and, 15-plus years later, they need to go back to school and retrain to do something else completely different. I see the near future of people having two careers in their lifetime, without company pensions. The idea of retiring at 65, or another artificial number, will fall away as irrelevant. The focus seems to be turning toward staying healthy and productive, regardless of age.

And our success will be all based on the relationships we grow and cultivate. It is a fascinating time to be alive.

Larry Stanleigh, BSc, MSc, DDS, FADI, FICD, FACD, FPFA

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