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Image Generation Y and Cool Careers

When a friend of mine recently vented her fury and disappointment at the fact that her privately educated son had announced his plans to train as a plumber's apprentice, I listened sympathetically, silently praying that this wouldn't be my fate a few years hence.

Why, she railed, had she bothered to sacrifice for so many years to give him a good education if he was going to choose something he could have done after leaving school, and not the top university she had slaved to get him into.

"He's not interested in a professional career, because it's 'boring'," she snorted. "He says he wants something more hands-on" – a wish she was probably tempted to fulfil in quite another way.

Too Cool for School

Coincidentally, we recently came across a report of a study which polled school-going students across Australia, seeking to gauge their perceptions of different industry sectors and how they were going to decide on their eventual careers.

The results don't make happy reading for people like my friend. This comprehensive study of 16 to 18 year olds – or Generation Y in demographic speak (those born roughly between 1980 and 2003 and now aged 6 to 28) – showed that careers such as Medicine, Law and the Arts are now seen as decidedly 'uncool'.

This generation has an affinity for both practical education and to pursue cool, 'sexy' careers, mostly within the creative industry.

The study showed that this generation has an affinity for both practical education and to pursue cool, 'sexy' careers, mostly within the creative industry. Of the students polled, careers in television (25%), the music industry (24%), film (23%) and digital media (22%) featured most frequently, while over 65% of respondents rating 'acting' as a job which 'attracts the sexiest people'. The survey also showed a marked shift towards practical education, with an astonishing 83% of those considering future education specifying that they would rather pursue studies that gave them practical skills which are 'useful in the real world'.

"We weren't actually surprised at the results," said Marco Bettelli, Managing Director of the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa regions for SAE Institute, the global college which commissioned the study, and which offers both short courses and full-time courses in Film, Audio, Animation and Interactive Media Design.

"We've seen a considerable increase in interest from students wishing to pursue non-traditional areas of study, as students choose to take advantage of the opportunities available in the new creative industries."

Industries about which, many parents, who are still struggling to come to grips with the concept of new media, have only the haziest notions.

Tradition vs. Creativity and Innovation

So when did being a lawyer, a doctor or a teacher come to be seen as 'uncool'? And does this mean that the hopes of many parents to be able to talk about 'my son, the doctor' or 'my daughter, the lawyer' are doomed to remain just that?

Interestingly, this generation appears to have embraced what many older people struggle with – the idea of finding a job that takes into account your skills and interests, rather than doing the job expected of you and looking for another outlet for your talents and interests.

The respondents to the survey felt no inclination to follow traditional career paths but did feel strongly about aligning their personal proficiencies with their chosen career path, with 67% actively searching for careers that 'fit their interests and talents', allowing them creativity and the opportunity to be innovative in the workplace.

Time for Change?

Are these young people wrong to want to spend the bulk of their week doing a job that makes use of their interests and talents? Indeed, is it their responsibility to fulfil their parents' ambitions, irrespective of their own?

As I consider the significant number of frustrated clients I have coached, many of whom have followed what our parents considered careers of choice, it's hard to disagree with the logic of Generation Y.

Think for a moment of the legions of people – you might even be one of them - who dread the thought of Monday mornings. Consider also the increasing number of mid-career professionals now seeking a career change and the chance to do something they consider more meaningful with their lives.

Maybe it's time for us to learn from Generation Y and to start realizing that it's never too late to become cool.

In This Issue

As more African professionals head home, in the article 'Managing Africa with AMSCO', we talk to AMSCO about how their organisation is providing experienced African professionals with career opportunities in Africa.

For those contemplating a gap year in the face of a tight job market, we share how one gap year student’s stay in Ghana helped to spread the message of health and safety and changed her life in 'A Gap Year with a Difference'

Also in this month's Careers section, our Careers Coach offers some advice for a reader facing a choice of voluntary redundancy.



Leading trichologist Noon Etienne busts some further Black Hair Myths and, in '5 Myths about Colouring Afro Hair', Noon offers advice for those wanting a change in hair colour.

We preview the upcoming 2nd Annual Ghana Business and Investment Exhibition 2009and look at how the Ghana Black Stars Network is preparing for this event.

In 'Designing Cultures', we speak to Hazel and Kweku Aggrey-Orleans about the role their African heritage has played in the unique range of scarves created by their design company, Orleans Designs.

Award winning Editor, Anver Versi, is our guest interviewee in this month's '5 Minute Interview' and shares some of the sources of his inspiration and success.

We go back into the ReConnect Africa Archives and bring you another chance to read the interview with Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba, the Deputy Secretary-General of the Commonwealth inWomen, Leadership and a Changing Africa.

September brings a wide range of exciting events to the UK and overseas and  our Events listing gives you details of what's on this month.

As ever, we report on news from the UK and around the world and bring you an overview of news from across the African continent.

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