A Proper Job (Part 1): The Not-So-Ancient African & Asian Mentalities

Reading Time: 4 minutes

So you’ve finished uni, graduation is done and you have enjoyed summer. Now your African/Asian parents have asked when you plan to get a proper job.

“A proper job”

Oh how we loathe these words.

Doctor, Lawyer or Engineer: these are your options. If you’re lucky, you may have been handed the new and improved extended version, the latest addition being: Accountant. These are what we call the proper jobs.
I don’t plan to address ignorance with more ignorance. I’m aware that there are many liberal African/Asian parents who are more ‘developed’ in their views. For whom a psychologist, teacher or journalist are careers that they would very gladly support their children to pursue. But let’s not fool ourselves into believing this is the majority.

Not long ago I was in the company of an African parent who held this not-so-ancient outlook on life. The words “He should go and get a proper job” led me to write this. We were discussing a friend of mine who was making progress in their music career. Unlike this African parent, I thought this was something worth being proud of.

As someone who feels as though I have lived my entire life trapped in a confusing web with no clear desire or direction, I struggled to understand how so many could hold such negative views. How someone could see the passion that their own child had for something (something I longed for) and choose not to support it. It’s likely that I have been cushioned, sheltered from the harsh realities of the real world; maybe my stubborn nature is so strong that I would have done what I wanted with or without my parents’ support. But whatever the reason for my lack of awareness on an issue that affects so many, as always, I did some digging.

My Question

Why don’t African/Asian parents support non-conventional/traditional careers?

My initial approach was very direct: I asked, but I didn’t receive the answers I was looking for. Job security and financial stability were the most common responses. There’s no arguing that they are valid reasons, but they didn’t answer my question. It isn’t difficult for me to understand why such professions are preferred, but instead why others are not. We’re not very different to our parents or grandparents when it comes to what we want in life. In fact, the fundamental desires tend to be the same across the entire human race. Of course, our parents want the best for us: a stable job, a good income and a comfortable life. Happiness doesn’t make an appearance on this list despite self-actualisation and esteem being the top two needs on Maslow’s hierarchy.

In my search for answers I chose to reach out to some of the oldest people I know, the closest connection I had to the origins of this mindset and through this, an interesting theory was shared. With the colonisation of a lot of African and Asian countries by the western world, many of our forefathers found themselves striving for the government jobs that the white man was offering. Go to school, study abroad, come back and work for the government and you’ll have a nice house and brand new car lined up for you. This notion has been around long before your parents started using it on you. To be a doctor or lawyer of native descent gave you status, it made you the ‘big man’ in the village, someone the family could be proud of- it became a proper job.

That Awkward Generation…

But in today’s world, the larger majority of us are no longer waiting for the white man to give us jobs- we’re creating our own. We’re doing this through creative forms that make us happy, forms that enhance our natural talents, skills and abilities in forms that even lead us to monetary success.

To some of our parents, however, this simply isn’t enough. “My son is a dancer” doesn’t compare to Aunty Bola’s first son the doctor. Matters are made worse if you are academically gifted. The view in simple terms is this: if you have the brains to be a cardiopulmonary technologist, why would you want to be a comedian? It’s harsh, I know.

Our generation is in a difficult position. Many of us are first-generation British- or wherever it is you find yourself in the Western World. Our parents have struggled to be where they are today and duly want what is best for their children. To them, ‘best’ is a way to describe the opportunities they migrated for. So, whether or not they achieved it, this is the path that has been chosen for us.

Do what you want!

Even with further research, I didn’t find the answer to my question. Instead, I found stories of med-school dropouts and came to one simple conclusion: do what works for you now since you’re going to do it later anyway! I’m a strong advocate for making the most of every opportunity and that may include practising as a lawyer when you’d much rather be a fashion designer just to please your mother. But it’s foolish to know what you want and to go after something else!

Ultimately your parents want what is best for you. You spend the greatest proportion of your life working so a happy career should be high on your priority list! It could be that what makes you happy cannot pay the bills, this is what hobbies are for. But I can assure you that there is something out there that you can work towards and conquer in the professional world and it may not necessarily fall under doctor, lawyer or engineer.

Someone once said that ‘African parents don’t support your dreams until you start making money’, unfortunately, I agree (conditionally). If you’re set on pleasing your parents, do this by first pleasing yourself.

Your passion is what will make you successful, not how much your mum brags about you with her church friends. 

Your job is not to live out your parent’s dreams. It’s to break the boundaries your culture has set and make them proud in the process.

All the best,

Tisha x


The next post in this two-part series will be focussed on job satisfaction. But in the meantime, here’s a success story that I shared a while ago on Facebook, from someone who made pleasing himself his number one priority rather than pleasing his African mum.

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  1. August 20, 2017 / 4:17 pm

    This is a very interesting topic. I agree with do what you want to do. Work is a big part of life, one doesn’t want to be at a place they are not truly happy.

    • TishaKimiira
      August 20, 2017 / 5:47 pm

      Thank you for reading!💙💙💙

      • August 20, 2017 / 5:50 pm

        No problem. I’m “American” so it’s not necessary the same. A career of any sort is ok.
        Not sure if that’s bad or good. Lol

        • TishaKimiira
          August 20, 2017 / 5:51 pm

          haha i think career choice is the one thing that people should have freedom in. You’ll do it for a large portion of your life so as you’ve said you deserve to be happy

  2. August 20, 2017 / 9:17 pm

    My son is a dancer – I was the dancer of my family and my sister was like to my parents why is she (me) studying dance? These times she’s studying to be a film/television make up artist lol. It’s defo true that African parents start to support you ONCE you starting making money. Some parents also try to vivaciously live through you by telling you what career to choose. My parents wanted me to be lawyer or a nurse because of job stability but instead I wanted to dance. Then I ventured into the world of neuroscience and therapy, and started training as a creative psychotherapist and I still see dissatisfaction.

    Sorry for the rant, but I can relate so much. I also feel that, if you don’t go to university then parents look at you in some kind of way.

    I’ll be waiting for part two, @ me on Twitter when you’ve posted!

    Love Freda!

    • TishaKimiira
      August 20, 2017 / 9:32 pm

      I appreciate the rant!!! It just so happened that I chose oneof these careers (I wasn’t pressured into it) and so I never experienced these feelings for myself but I definitely witnessed/observed and it’s devastating to see! Glad you can relate though! Part 2 will be up on Sunday! Thank you for reading💙

  3. August 20, 2017 / 10:25 pm

    This is also very true in West Indian households too. Like you said, not all, but many.

    I love what you said about passion though. If someone had the passion for something and is making it work, why come down on them? I wish I had even an ounce of the passion I see in so many.

    • TishaKimiira
      August 21, 2017 / 7:50 am

      Exactly! Success is success, the specifics shouldn’t matter! Thank you for reading luvie 💙

    • August 27, 2017 / 9:18 pm

      Definitely. My parents weren’t like that though because I’m the first to get a BA degree. But many of my west indian friends were in school with me SUFFERING through bio courses because they were expected to be a nurse. And they hated every bit of what they were studying. Some with the threat (which i think was halfway empty) of not having school paid for.

      • August 27, 2017 / 9:24 pm

        Same with mine, they’re pretty supportive of me as long as my choices are sound. But similarly, my friends were all BioChem/Biology/Medical Technology in order to start them on the career paths to become nurses, doctors, etc.

        • August 27, 2017 / 9:29 pm

          And I only know a small handful who actually enjoyed it to any degree.

          • TishaKimiira
            August 27, 2017 / 9:35 pm

            Even those that choose these courses (without pressure) don’t always enjoy them 😂

          • August 27, 2017 / 11:51 pm

            Mhmm, also notice that some people don’t have the temperament or overall personality to even be in healthcare. Interesting and unfortunate to some extent. So sure that they would thrive at whatever they did if they can apply themselves to such challenging degrees.

          • TishaKimiira
            August 28, 2017 / 12:04 am

            Exactly! Just feels like such a waste 😔

  4. August 21, 2017 / 11:02 am

    Absolutely, love and respect your family. However, do what you love and love what you do. The videos in your post are very powerful and thought provoking. Thank you!

    • TishaKimiira
      August 21, 2017 / 11:03 am

      Thank you so much for reading! Glad you enjoyed it 💙

  5. August 21, 2017 / 12:41 pm

    Omg! I was literally thinking about this topic last week! I began to consider dating an Asian but I thought his parents wouldn’t accept me because of my lack of “proper job”ness. This totally gave me clarity!

    • TishaKimiira
      August 21, 2017 / 12:43 pm

      Definitely shouldn’t stand in your way! So happy it was helpful! Thank you for reading 💙

  6. August 21, 2017 / 1:38 pm

    Doctor, lawyer or engineer… the three top jobs of African parents! I think I started understanding my parent’s point of view of “a proper job” when I became a parent myself. These listed jobs just ensure that your kids will not starve and will have many many options in the future, if they realize that’s not their calling.

    • TishaKimiira
      August 21, 2017 / 4:27 pm

      I agree, but it’s definitely not something that should be forced, just kindly suggested with a list of pros and cons lol. Thank you for reading!💙

  7. August 22, 2017 / 5:09 pm

    It appears that your elders HAVE answered your question. They just didn’t say it the way you want to hear it. LOL! They like the traditional career paths because, for them, it equals “Job security and financial stability” as you wrote. Being a doctor, lawyer, etc…these are things they know about and understand.

    The reality is that life as a comedian, dancer or singer is very, very tough. Financially speaking, there are lots of peaks, valleys and ramen noodles in between. A person might even be forced to take a job practicing his talent in a “questionable” place just to keep food on the table. As someone who has worked in the entertainment world, this is very real. In the long run, parents wish to protect their children from such things.

    They also don’t want to keep having to financially support an adult. That’s probably the biggest factor. The key is explaining these “new age” professions to them (blogging, fashion design, modeling, etc), and making sure you have some kind of a plan AND a job to help finance your dream. LOL!

    • TishaKimiira
      August 22, 2017 / 6:02 pm

      Haha I guess you’re right, it’s not the answer I wanted 😂 I agree, having a plan and a stable job on the side is key to convincing then that everything is okay! Thank you for reading, and your comment! Always great to hear from someone who has experienced the struggles!💙

  8. August 22, 2017 / 6:37 pm

    Coming from a traditional African home, you are speaking the truth in everything you state! I can’t blame them because they have struggled so much and want to see the fruit of their labor through children. I will however vouch, that doing what feeds your soul even as a side hustle is very important.

    Aïchatou Bella


    • TishaKimiira
      August 22, 2017 / 6:41 pm

      Glad you can relate and agree! Feeding your soul is above all else! Thank you for reading 💙

  9. August 22, 2017 / 10:53 pm

    It’s hard for some to accept non-traditional careers. Success is only measured by being a doctor, lawyer or corporate professional. There’s so much out there that leads to success.

    • TishaKimiira
      August 23, 2017 / 8:08 am

      Sooo much more! But I think times are definitely changing in terms of perception of what a ‘proper job is’. Thank you for reading 💙

  10. August 23, 2017 / 1:55 am

    Interesting. I do believe in doing what you want, but on the flip side if it’s not working, have a plan b, c, d etc…My mother loves that skit of the Nigerian woman.

    • TishaKimiira
      August 23, 2017 / 8:09 am

      Agreed, having a skill that leads to a stable back up plan should be encouraged rather than these traditional professions being enforced. Haha it’s hilarious! Thank you for reading 💙

  11. Tiffany
    August 23, 2017 / 8:44 pm

    I believe that one of life’s biggest regrets would be to not follow your dreams or take the path you truly wanted. It’s so true that you have to follow your own instincts. Great post!

    • TishaKimiira
      August 23, 2017 / 9:27 pm

      Glad you enjoyed it! Thank you so much for reading 💙

  12. August 27, 2017 / 9:20 pm

    And what many of our parents fail to realize is that many if the “traditional” careers in this day and age are quickly losing that job security they once had. Many have had to let go of their desire to only see themselves doing one thing just to stay afloat.

    • TishaKimiira
      August 27, 2017 / 9:22 pm

      THIS 👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽Lawyers and even doctors aren’t the stable professions they once were (depending on where in the world you are of course). There are endless opportunities to explore, we shouldn’t grow up with limits. Thank you for reading as always 💙

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