Several studies have shown that the new generation called the GenZ are different, a fact which they are very much aware of and proud of. GenZs are lovers of freedom. They would always advocate for people to be given the freedom to make whatever choices they wish. Wherever you mention the word “freedom”, there is a GenZ ready to take up the cause. In Africa however, freedom is a conditional word. “Yes, you are free to become a musician but over my dead body”. This is the typical response you get from your African parents if you finally mustered up the courage to confront them about your not-so-conventional career choices. The GenZ and millennium generation in contrast believe they are not biased in their use of the term “freedom “. An average GenZ would say, “I believe we should be free to do or become whatever we want in life”. Or so I imagined. Not until I had this conversation with my little niece which then led me to interact with several young people on career choices.
The conversation happened on a cool evening when I was watching my niece make her doll’s hair. Her name is Kachi and She is six years old. “Aunty Uba”, she called out to me as she carefully separated the hair into sections to begin braiding. She applied oil on the hair, the body oil which we use to moisturise our skin. “Yes”, I answered, still contemplating whether to ask her to return the body oil so it does not go to waste on a doll’s hair . After a second thought I let her use it because she was making really nice braids and I was not about to ruin that. “Aunty Uba, can I be a hairdresser when I grow up?”.
I was taken aback for a moment. What! A hairdresser? Why would anyone want to be a hairdresser when there are so many new and juicy careers out there? How do I tell this little girl that she cannot be a hairdresser in a very nice way without betraying that “GenZ freedom culture” which I have so embraced and even preached? How do I be a good aunt and role model to her? How do I not betray her parents’ trust in me to guide their child on the right path? A thousand questions crossed my mind in that second after she asked me. I looked at her eagerly waiting for my reply and I answered ” Yes dear, you can be anything you want to be”.
You can be anything you want to be
I felt a thousand reprimands from some invisible African ancestors, “Other people’s nieces are going to be doctors and engineers in the future but here you are encouraging your niece to be a hairdresser . A hairdresser! You could have encouraged her to choose a fancy career. You are a bad aunt”.
Kachi looked at me confused. She paused for a while to think. I knew she was in deep in thought, her brows were furrowed and her heads were bent in thought. She was probably trying to determine the credibility of my statement. “So why did my brother say I cannot be a hairdresser? He told me hairdressing is a bad career and that I would be poor”. She was referring to her elder brother who is older with three years.
“No, it is not a bad career and you can be really rich helping women keep beautiful hair” “Why do you want to be a hairdresser?”, I asked.
“I love making hair”. Here it is! This must be a good enough reason, I thought. How many times have I seen or heard career quotes like “Do what you love and it doesn’t feel like work” or “Make your passion your career”. I felt better about myself. I gave myself a mental pat on the back for staying true to my “do what you love a” typical GenZ mentality and have encouraged my six year old cousin to follow her passion at a young age.
I shared this story with friends with mixed expectations. I saw the criticism coming my way. However, I was surprised to see that they were coming from the same people that preach the ” follow your passion” Gospel. Really?! Be anything you want to be but only if that ‘anything’ is a Medical Doctor or an engineer. I felt anger, frustration and betrayal. What happened to the GenZ tribe? I had thought we left this line of reasoning with our parents and forefathers. I decided to carry out a survey by asking more people my age what they thought about this encounter.My interaction with several young people made me realise that the better career choice was not even the regular medicine and surgery that was the case of our parents. GenZ has refined what a good career means and to them it is a career in tech.
“Everybody should be in the tech industry, that is the fastest way to make money”
“The best career is tech careers, you can work from anywhere “
“Tech is the future. Why would anyone not want to have a career in tech?”
“Tech is cool”
Statements like these can be heard when discussions on career choice arise among young people today. As a young person, I do not support this view. I believe in something I call “Tech Integration”.”Tech Integration” is using technological tools to advance already existing processes. Some would call it digitalisation. I usually advise people (those who care for my two cents worth of opinion) that you can be whatever you want to be but don’t be left in the past world, be in the digital not the analogue world. Integrate tech into whatever career you choose. Produce music but look into selling your music as NFTs. Be a hairdresser and look into using virtual reality to determine the best style for your clients.You must not have a career in tech. Who would make females look beautiful if everyone is busy writing codes to take us all to space and beyond? However, a hairdresser who understands the concept of tech Integration can conceptualise and design the right solutions to problems facing the industry using the latest technologies. So this is me telling my fellow GenZs to pursue their interests, techy or otherwise, while Integrating tech as best as they could. Feel free to hire a tech professional if you don’t see the need to do it yourself.
Let’s all be free to pursue our interest in a digital world, tech or otherwise. If it’s legal, ethical, makes a positive impact in the society, capable of earning you a living, capable of growing and expanding to accommodate more people, then I do not see how it isn’t a good carreer.
Technology is not designed to cage us all. It is designed to give us freedom from barriers. This is the era to be absolutely anything you want to be, tech or otherwise.
Kachi may grow up, find other interests and decide on her own that she wants to follow another career path, that is totally fine as long as she is doing what she loves. Or she would go to school, become a hairdresser and change the face of the beauty industry with hair products that we never thought were possible. So if you take me back to that very day with Kachi, my reply would still remain, “You can be anything you want”.
A Concerned Nigerian Youth.