Thu | Jan 18, 2018

Glenford Smith | What would you do with a cash windfall?

Published:Sunday | March 26, 2017 | 12:00 AM

A friend was relating an experience he had at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, the week of March 13, 2017. It speaks to young people and their career prospects.

He overheard a group of female students talking. They were talking about several different topics that had nothing to do with them or their future. He sat there and listened to them for about thirty minutes, enjoying the gossip being shared among themselves.

At that point, he intervened: "Ladies, if each of you were to receive ten million dollars today, how would you spend it?" Only one of the 11 students gave a clear answer. The others all said that it was a difficult question.

Three of them said to him that it made no sense to think like that because plans never come to pass. He asked those three whose idea it was for them to attend university. They said that their parents'. He shook his head and walked away, very concerned.

The first thing I applaud my friend for was engaging the students. We need more of that kind of interaction between our elders and young people. Our interactions do not always, or primarily, have to be adversarial. It is good that he did not proceed to lecture them, whatever his thoughts were.

It might sound strange, but it isn't unusual for a group of young women at that age not to be clear what they wanted to do. Ask the same question of a group of people in their forties and be prepared to be shocked. Chances are that the people in their forties are fed up with their career choices but are stuck in them.

choosing a career

The fact is that it takes a certain amount of experience and maturity before these young people will know what they want to do. The careers department of the educational institutions are doing a good job of sensitising them to the available careers. But the amount of time each one needs to determine what he or she would like to do is still going to take some time.

I was recently consulted by a young woman headed to UWI. She is going into university in the fall, and she is rightfully confused. Should she do social work or something in economics? She doesn't like mathematics or economics, but one of the courses she is considering doing demands it.

It is really important that parents exercise patience as these young people struggle through these choices. Many parents counsel young people, drawing from their own experiences, which oftentimes, is not enough.

The young persons in question do have a choice, however. Through some experiences, I knew what I wanted to do by the time I got a job. This is relatively rare. What these young ladies can do is spend more time discussing among themselves what each would like to do. This assumes that is not being done.

It is not unusual for their parents to tell them to do one thing or the other. But ultimately, it is their responsibility what each will end up doing.

n Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and success strategist. He is the author of 'From Problems to Power' and co-author of 'Profile of Excellence'.