When offering career advice, maybe Baby Boomers should keep quiet

If we can’t tell our children that they should decide what it is they want to do with their lives and then pursue it, what exactly are we supposed to tell them about life?

In a column reprinted by the Fargo Forum today, Gina Barreca of the Hartford Courant , is the latest “expert” to lecture a younger generation on accepting the fact they should desire nothing more than a paycheck and the thrill of being a cog in a machine.

We too often tell the impressionable young that if they’re passionate enough about a topic or activity, they’ll be recognized, eventually, for their talents. Yet this is not generally, or even often, the case in actual life. Most people do not make a living by dancing, singing, acting, writing, drawing or designing apps. Most people do not write and direct highly successful films based on their first novels.

Yes, some people do, but even many of the ones who arrive in the spotlight have, or have had, day jobs and regular work. They too have to support themselves between projects unless they marry rich or come from families that own air and mineral rights.

Instead, most of us will need to show up at a job on a regular basis. Nobody said it’s easy. One of my favorite young women called me after landing an excellent fulltime position in a major city. I was surprised when I heard the lack of enthusiasm in her voice. She’d been a fine undergraduate and then gone on to train for precisely the field in which she was now employed.

“And?” I asked.

“And now I’ll have to do that for the rest of my life.” She sounded shocked. It was exciting to get the job but having and doing the job? We didn’t necessarily prepare her for that. Where did the passion go?

Stereotype much?

The reality is that we rarely tell our children that a pot of gold is waiting for them in whatever field they choose. We don’t tell them all they need is passion for their desired career. We don’t tell them it’s easy (Barreca acknowledged as much in her column). And they rarely end up at the mall or nurses office as adults. They make their own way, they work hard at developing careers, and they do on their own terms.

Sometimes they end up with a degree in English literature and feminist theory. Like Barreca. She’s a professor of same.

“Most people do not make a living by dancing, singing, acting, writing, drawing or designing apps,” she writes. “Most people do not write and direct highly successful films based on their first novels.”

No kidding. But Barreca had done OK by the arts. She’s a comic/humorist and an author. Her latest book, “If You Lean In, Will Men Just Look Down Your Blouse?” Questions and Thoughts for Loud, Smart Women in Turbulent Times” must have been drudgery to write. At least if she was doing it right, apparently.

“Forget passion,” she says, while not explaining what it is exactly that draws her to focus on women’s workplace issues in her career.

Barreca’s column mirrors the commencement speech last spring of Mike Rowe, the host of Dirty Jobs, who similarly painted a picture of young people sauntering down a path of interesting — to them — careers, when they should instead be doing “Dirty Jobs.” Or plastics.

Somehow, Baby Boomers did OK with their career choices before becoming the helicopter parents who tried to direct every aspect of the lives of their precious flowers, attempting to keep them from stumbling, falling, and learning how to pick themselves up again.

Now they’re the nation’s grandparents and newspaper columnists, offering insufferable expertise to a generation that’s had plenty of it.

Let go, Boomers. The kids are going to be OK.