I've made no secret of my lack of patience with disenchanted IT workers who discourage their own kids from pursuing a technology-related degree and entering the IT field. So when I raised the issue with a professional career coach last week, I found it interesting that she seems to have even less patience with the practice than I do.
Catherine Jewell, author of the book, "New Resume, New Career," articulated what lies at the root of my problem with people who do that to their kids: They may well be stealing their child's dream:
I think it's a big mistake to discourage children from any career path. I think that we know at a very deep level what we're meant to do. I coach people in their fifties now who are going back to the career dreams that they had as a teenager, and they got waylaid by advice.
Jewell went so far as to say that it may well be in the genes of the child of an IT professional to want to pursue a career in IT:
IT people procreate IT people. They obviously have the mind and the personality for it, so it's very likely that their children will have those same types of talents. I also believe that the current situation is just a blip in history. IT is here to stay. IT becomes more and more critical to business functions every day, and it's not going anywhere. We still need brilliant people to solve IT problems. I can only see IT getting bigger.
Of course, many disenchanted IT workers don't want to hear that. A post that I wrote last December, "Mamas, Please Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Tech Pros," drew a lot of angry comments from a lot of bitter people. This one was typical:
Why would you encourage your children to go in to STEM careers when there are so many cheap labor advocates like yourself determined to keep the wages low using mechanisms like the H-1B program?
We can make snide, negative comments like that from now till the cows come home, but that does nothing to benefit our kids. In fact, it was in this context that Jewell made a point that all of us would do well to remember:
There's something about the IT mind-it's taught to be discerning. But the other edge of that sword of discernment is negativity. I think anything you can do to get a more positive outlook is what you should be doing.
She's right. There have been any number of scientific studies that show that optimistic, positive people live longer, healthier lives than negative people. A 2009 University of Pittsburgh study of 100,000 women over 50, for example, found that pessimists are 30 percent more likely to die of heart disease than optimists. Research conducted in 2004 by the Psychiatric Center GGZ Delfland in The Netherlands found that optimists have a 55 percent lower risk of death from all causes than pessimists.
So maybe stealing your kids' career dreams by saddling them with your hang-ups and disappointments isn't so bad after all, relatively speaking. Stealing years from their lives by passing along your negativity is clearly worse.