Friday, August 30, 2013

Validating Career Direction, Valuing Dreams

In this scene from the classic Frank Capra movie and George S. Kaufman play, You Can’t Take it With You, the munitions magnate Anthony P. Kirby, Sr. is on the cusp of creating a monopoly with plans to make his son, Tony, the president of the corporation. The media and power brokers of the deal are all waiting anxiously in the upstairs boardroom for the Kirby's to make their entrance, when Tony approaches Kirby, Sr. in his private boardroom:

Tony: “I’m quitting…I just handed in my resignation.  I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. 
Kirby, Sr.: “so, you’re quitting. Well, what’re you going to do?” 
Tony: “I don’t know.  I..I think I’ll go away for a while, and try to get myself organized.  I..I was going to hang on to my job until this thing with Alice got all straightened out, but that’s all over, so there’s no use waiting around till that.  I..I don’t know. I..I thought maybe after I get back, I could start work on that grass---you remember that thing that Bob Smith and I fooled around with in college?”
(Kirby Sr. starts laughing) 
Tony: “Well Dad, if you think it’s funny, I’m sorry.  I came in here to say goodbye.” 
Kirby, Sr.: “Goodbye? Are you serious?” 
Tony: “Yes, I’m serious. I don’t want any part of this, Dad. I never did. 
Kirby, Sr.: “You can’t do this, after all the plans I made for you---“ 
Tony: “Dad, if I could just make you understand this.  I think this business is great. It’s good for you because you like it.  I don’t.  I never will.  Oh, I’ve tried to talk to you so many times about it but I just couldn’t get it out!  I used to be able to talk to you, Dad.  But lately…”

Although the screenplay is a romantic comedy, it brings into sharp focus the tension of working in environments  and occupations which are clearly outside an individual’s calling. This scene between Tony Kirby (played by the venerable Jimmy Stewart) and his father, Anthony P. Kirby, Sr. (played by Edward Arnold) also highlights how relationships are strained by the powerful sense of obligation to fulfill another family member’s well-intentioned plans.

Tony is breaking with the family business and reveals his interest in possibly pursuing his own dream.  We learn in an earlier scene that he and his friend from college were intrigued with researching how to develop technology that replicates the ability of plants to convert solar energy (keep in mind this play was written in the 1930’s, before the invention of the integrated circuit).

It is easy for young adults to identify with Tony and languish for years without career tests and assessments to reveal clear direction and purpose.  They may not have been shown how to take stock of their personal strengths, interests and energizing work style preferences,  and may not have been advised on how to set and work towards realistic, measurable goals. As a result, young adults are prone to waste valuable time and resources pursuing college majors or careers that are not a fit.

So how can a young man or woman find direction? Is it possible to validate that he or she is headed for the right goal? How can the young adult avoid the same quickly-diffused triumph a disoriented athlete experiences after making a 3-point shot or scoring a touchdown and discovering it was the wrong end of the court or field?

Tony needed a mentor, someone who would truly listen to him, understand his interests, and encourage him to pursue his dreams. Unfortunately, it wasn’t his father.  Sometimes it takes someone outside the immediate family, maybe even a respected stranger, to listen and provide objective, unbiased guidance.

If you haven’t seen it, you will have to watch the movie to see who provided those answers to Tony. For the young adults in your life, there’s IDMyPlan.