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James Caan Is Right - But For Different Reasons

11/06/2013 12:04 BST | Updated 03/08/2013 10:12 BST

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, James Caan, the Government's new Social Mobility Tsar says that parents should not help their children to get a job. Instead they should encourage kids to make their own way. The reason he gives is that when parents hold back they help their children to develop.

I agree, but for a different reason. Years of giving career advice to frustrated and unhappy thirty year olds has reinforced a belief I have long held- that most people are in the wrong jobs.

They are in the wrong jobs because they made career decisions too early, before they really understood what a lifetime of work means, and before they had sufficient insight into their skills and what they were looking from in a career.

Many of them made their career decisions too early because their parents pushed them- and very often got them their first job- in a career which, by the time they reached thirty, they were desperate to escape from.

The consequences of a career you hate can be dire. Not just because unhappy people make poor workers, fail to achieve their potential and earn less than they should. But because of the severe psychological problems that come from working for years in a job you hate, often knowing there is something better for you out there but feeling (wrongly) that it is not possible to make a change.

It may be difficult to accept in a highly competitive jobs market, where so many people are out of work but I am convinced that, unless you have a clear and undeniable passion for a job, you should spend your twenties exploring different careers, trying new things, building your skills and understanding what you really want to do with your working life.

By the time you are thirty, often sooner, you will have discovered the career that is right for you. There is still plenty of time to train and you will be able to look forward to a much happier and more successful working life.

Does delaying the start of your career put you at a disadvantage in the jobs market? I don't believe it does. If you know what you want, why you want it and can articulate the benefits you bring to an employer, you will be a far more credible candidate for a job than someone who is robotically progressing along a career path they don't want to be on. And since getting into the right job will have such a positive impact on your life, both economically and emotionally, it must make sense.

So I welcome James Caan's perspective. Of course parents want the best for their kids. But sometimes we can want too hard. Our kids are their own people, they have to find themselves and become the people they want to be. Being pushed usually doesn't help.