Sad girl staying against united family expectations on having no career

Have No Career and It’s Not Meeting Family Expectations?

Man sitting on windowsill looking out at the big city. Sadness. When no career doesn't meet family expectations.
Image: Pexels from Pixabay

Are you struggling with family expectations and disappointment about your career, or lack thereof? You’re not alone.

Whether you’re facing the pressure to pursue a particular profession, get on one track and stay there, or feel behind by societal standards, this article addresses the heart of the challenge—finding your own career path amidst family expectations.

Explore strategies for creating boundaries, communicating effectively, and seeking support to forge a vocational path that aligns with your passions, not just your family’s aspirations.

Key Takeaways

  • Starting a career at 30 (or older, or never) is OK!
  • Finding the right career, job, or vocational path involves identifying your passions and strengths
  • It’s possible to balance family expectations with personal goals through authentic living and planning

When Your Family is Bothered That You Have No Career, But You Aren’t

Woman who is frustrated over family expectations and no career.
Image: gabrielle_cc from Pixabay

Many believe that by the age of 30, one should have all aspects of life, including careers, neatly sorted out. However, life is not a race, and it’s perfectly fine if you haven’t figured everything out. It’s also okay if, like me, you’ve chosen not to have a traditional career.

I’ve always worked. I started working part-time when I was 14 and always maintained a job through high school. At 17, I joined the National Guard. I went to college and got a degree. However, the field I chose wasn’t based on my passion, but on the pressure I felt growing up to have a career with a prestigious title and a big salary.

By the time I graduated, I had already felt lost and depressed. I knew I couldn’t spend my life in the occupation for which I’d been trained, but I also didn’t really know what I wanted to do.

So, I started doing anything that interested me. While my family was disappointed by this, they did want me to be happy, so they were supportive of the idea that I would find a different “career” that I would enjoy.

Over time, choosing no career just seemed right for me

I never stayed at any job for long. Even with jobs I liked, two years seemed to be about my limit, and then I would get bored and feel the urge for something new. Whenever I would change jobs, I could hear the eye rolls of my family and their sometimes-verbalized, sometimes-not judgments, like, “You’re so flaky,” and “When are you going just to find a job and stay there?” wrang in my head.

The judgment wore on me, but I carried on and decided not to go back to school to learn something else. My heart just wasn’t in it. In the National Guard, I trained as a cook and eventually found that I was good at food service management.

Food service industry kitchen workers team.
Image: Stocksnap from Pixabay

I don’t know if you could call it a career, but I spent 11 years working in the food service industry. By the end of that period, I was part owner of an ice cream franchise and my own boss. My family seemed satisfied with that, as it sounded esteemed enough.

Until the day I remarked how I didn’t “want to do this forever.” My mom looked at me, puzzled, and said, “But what else would you do?” (My parents are of the old-school mindset that you don’t need to like your job, only make a lot of money.

I didn’t have a bad childhood, mind you, but I received a lot of conditioning that joy, happiness, and fulfillment were unimportant). I curtly replied to her question, “Whatever I want,” which ended the conversation. But I could tell what Mom was thinking.

She thought that being an owner in the food service industry was as good as it would get for me. What else could I do at this point in my life that would “sound better” than being the part-owner of a successful franchise? Or earn me more money?

What would she say to others when they asked what her daughter did for a living? How would she explain that her educated, 30-something kid had no real career direction? It made her feel insecure.

No Career Doesn’t Mean No Drive

Free-spirited girl driving pickup.
Image: Pexels for Pixabay

I had a friend once tell me, “Don’t limit yourself to one passion if you want a full life.” That hit me hard. Finally, I had the words to describe how I’d always felt. I realized that I have always been happiest (and still am today) doing a little bit of a lot of different things.

I like working part-time in two or three different outlets and not having to devote my whole life to just one thing. It doesn’t bother me that my income comes from a few jobs that I really enjoy instead of one prestigious one that I hate.

Since selling my stake in the franchise, I’ve held several different jobs and pursued many passion projects, and I feel blessed that I had the chance to do that, even if it has caused my family to see me as flighty and noncommittal.

The beauty of choosing to be a Renaissance person lies in the richness of the diverse life experiences you gain. These experiences offer unique perspectives and insights into who you are and what you truly love.

That type of self-awareness positively influences your life choices and can lead to real and lasting happiness, regardless of the type and variety of work you do.

Choose Yourself Over Family Expectations

Age is merely a number, and there’s always time to find your passion and establish your career path (if that’s what you want). Your 30s can be a time of exploration and growth, a time to figure out your abilities and align them with one or many jobs that bring you satisfaction and joy.

Don’t let the pressure of family expectations, society, and others’ opinions force you into believing that you must choose one course and stay there. Don’t limit yourself to one passion if you want a full life.

Navigating the Pressure of Family Expectations

The pressure of family expectations when you want no career.
AI-Generated Image

What our families want and expect from us undeniably plays a significant role in how most people shape their lives, including their career choices. Parents sometimes don’t realize it, but their presumptions about what their child will be and do, hold a lot of power. Many times, they can make a child feel pressured to make choices they wouldn’t otherwise make for themselves.

These presumptions can stem from how our parents, including our mom, dad, or guardians, were raised, their cultural values, religious beliefs, and how they envision the future for their children. They are often deeply rooted in their own upbringing, their societal norms, and their personal experiences and aspirations.

Their hopes and dreams can also shape these expectations for their children. Understandably, parents often desire to provide their children with opportunities they never had themselves. However, parents rarely consider how significant their influence is and that they might be pressuring their children into a life they don’t necessarily want.

So, what’s the best way to handle family expectations while chasing our own dreams? It comes down to two key strategies: establishing personal boundaries and fostering open communication.

Establishing Personal Boundaries & Communication

Managing family expectations about having no career with communication. Talking into tin can.
Image: Ryan McGuire for Pixabay

Creating personal boundaries is a vital step toward maintaining your mental health and autonomy. These boundaries enable you to articulate your needs, demonstrate self-respect, and preserve your comfort in relationships, especially with family members.

Practical examples of setting boundaries include:

  • Taking personal time
  • Maintaining privacy
  • Expecting respect for your feelings
  • Having the freedom to change your mind

But what if you encounter resistance? Remember, honesty, firmness, and composure are key. Explain your reasons for setting the boundaries and be clear about the consequences if they’re crossed.

Honest communication encourages understanding and trust-building, which is pivotal when dealing with family expectations. By sharing your thoughts, involving everyone, and creating a respectful environment, you can reduce the pressure that comes from family expectations.

Effective strategies for open communication include consistent messaging, framing discussions differently for various family members, and creating a non-judgmental space for discussing aspirations and concerns. But what if your family doesn’t support your goals? Remember to recognize their feelings, stand by your choices without getting defensive, and prepare for the conversation in advance.

Pursuing Your Passions Even If It Lets Others Down

Woman silhouette happiness freedom joy choosing no career
Image: Mohamed_hassan from Pixaby

Chasing your dream job in the face of family expectations can be a difficult but rewarding journey. It involves identifying your passions and strengths, overcoming fears, and finding authentic fulfillment.

Understanding your passions can act as a compass, guiding you to activities that bring you the most fulfillment and joy. A job that aligns with these passions is more likely to bring you satisfaction and success and may even turn into a career one day.

Overcoming Fear of Not Meeting Family Expectations

The fear of being a disappointment can pose a significant obstacle in decision-making, particularly when it requires going against family expectations. It’s important to prioritize meeting your own expectations first and showcase your accomplishments with confidence.

Self-confidence is one key to overcoming fear and disappointment. It empowers you to:

  • Make choices and take action without being held back by what others think
  • Remember that every setback is an opportunity to learn and grow
  • Find success and fulfillment after overcoming your fear

Finding Helpful Resources

finding resources online with search tools.

Having no career doesn’t mean you can’t still learn and develop your skills. And that doesn’t mean incurring extra debt, either. There are numerous teaching platforms and programs available, and it’s likely you can find a free program in your community that will teach you new skills you can use toward your purpose and passions.

You can check out free classes or sign up for comprehensive training programs in various fields. Platforms like Udemy, EdX, and Google Analytics Academy offer a wealth of resources for skill development. You can also find free job resources in your local area to support your unique path.

Creating a Balanced Life

Balancing family expectations with personal goals
AI-Generated Image

Balancing your life in this crazy world, including family expectations and personal objectives, can be tough. But it’s not impossible. Focusing on personal values and interests means remaining authentic to yourself amidst the complex dynamics of family expectations. By understanding what truly matters to you, you can focus your efforts on goals that bring you genuine fulfillment.

Your personal values and interests might sometimes clash with your family’s expectations. However, through open communication and understanding, you can find a balance that respects both your family’s perspectives and your own.

Formulating a long-term plan for achieving your unique aspirations, including job or business aspirations, can serve as a guide for your journey. You don’t have to have everything figured out all at once, but creating a vision of where you want to be in, say, 10 years and a rough idea of how you might get there is a good way to remember your authenticity and stay strong when feeling pressure from outside influences.

Keeping your long-term plan flexible allows it to adapt to new opportunities and experiences. Regularly re-evaluating your goals and staying open to change can help ensure your plan stays relevant and effective.

Stay True To Yourself and Your Unique Journey

Woman dancing on boulder in the moonlight next to a river.
Image: DelilanVan from Pixabay

Navigating the crossroads of family expectations and personal goals may seem daunting, but remember, your journey is unique. Embrace your passions, overcome your fears, and explore the resources available to support you.

Also, don’t forget to accept support from friends and professionals when necessary! We all need a little help now and then. With the right mindset and strategies in place, you can live a life dedicated to your personal goals and dreams without the constant weight of family expectations.

Have you ever experienced not living up to your family’s expectations because of having no career?

We’d love to hear about it in the comment section!

You might also want to check out the book, The Squiggly Career (paid link), which aims to help you learn to ‘navigate work in a way that suits you’!

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