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EU > Belgium > Ghent

Career choices

Ghent, BE (View on map)

`Man bijt hond` (`Man bites dog`) is a typical Flemish TV program that brings a mixture of social documentaries and `non-news`. It sends out reporters to ordinary people, to see what they eat for dinner, how they spend the day and what kind of, sometimes strange, hobbies they have. It is no surprise that many people in Belgium like to compare what I do to `Man bijt hond`. Enough a reason to ask people a question in the `Man bites dog` style: What did you want to become when you were younger?

Frederik (24):

..likes his job at the central city parking
Singing dentist
Jelle (23) clearly remembers that he wanted to become a singing dentist: `Singing for the music, and for the dentist part I don`t really know. I went to music school at a very young age and wanted to learn how to play the saxophone. But the saxophones had all been rented out so I chose guitar instead,` he says. Jelle went to the music academy and continued to play until a year and a half after. `After that, my music friends moved away to different cities and I had enough of it. I joined my parents` company and am now selling Mercedeses. I use the money I set aside for traveling and dining out, and I neither have much time nor energy for making music anymore. Maybe when my share in the company is bigger, so I can start working five days a week instead of six.`

Jelle`s girlfriend Ines (24) is a bit sad about Jelle never making music anymore. Ines herself wanted to become a model from a young age, but abandoned the project when she got 16. `I am too small and not thing enough to be a model. I don`t have anorexia you see`, she explains herself. She is now following an education in small company management, with her current dream to open her own boutique. Beside the work, she would also like to travel. Cambodia and Thailand rank high on her wish list, together with Panama where she was born. Ines already traveled a lot when she was younger. Her father`s job of Sales Executive for General Motors took her family to many distant places across the globe.

Joris (29), Peter (30) and Johan (35) all became programmers. Johan used to dream about being a doctor, but when he had to learn Latin in school, he quickly lost hope. Peter wanted to work as a baker, but his busy job doesn`t allow him to do much cooking at home in the present days. At the age of 8, Joris dreamed of becoming a police officer, `but somewhere I changed my mind and I`m happy with what I do now. I just changed jobs and I am enjoying the new one.`

Bike repairer
Frederik (24, photo) wanted to repair bikes, which he actually did for a while and with pleasure. In the meantime, he studied to become a cook, but got so fed up with it all, that he hasn`t felt like cooking ever since he past his final exams. It was not really his own choice to take the cooking course. `My parents wanted me to go to that specific school and cooking was the only subject that interested me`, he says. Frederik now works as a parking guard in the city centre of Ghent. His works day and night shifts and sometimes gets to see little daylight, as the parking is situated underground. Frederik likes his job, because he has got no direct superiour and can do what he want throughout the day. In the future, he might want to pass exams to become a bus driver, but for the moment he is fine where he is. `I do what I like, and anyway, I wouldn`t like to have a job where I`m just counting down the days. Being a pilot would sound nice, but you need to be good at maths and I`m scared of heights.

Stef (25) works as an ergotherapist in a home for the elderly. When she was younger, she never really had a any dreams about her future profession. Her doubts were more about whether she found it useful to have a job or not. `I didn`t like the idea of working after my studies, because you can work all your life, no need to start straight away, especially not in an office job`, she says. Still, she feels happy with her job: `I am organising activities for and with the old people. One of the things I enjoy most is how old people can tell about their lives. They have been through so many things, and it`s very interesting to hear them tell about their lives.`

An (22) wanted to become teacher `like many people in Belgium when they are young`. At a later age, she thought she would prefer to be an actress. She is studying pedagogy now and will pick up her acting ambitions after graduating. Rijn (22) did not want to become a teacher because her mother is already one. `I think many children at some point decide that they do not want to have the same profession as their parents. They choose something close to them, or something they have come across in daily life. Baker, police officer, doctor. But not the profession of their parents because they know the disadvantages it has, whereas they only see the positive sides of the other jobs`. No matter how much she did not want to become a teacher when she was younger, over the last few years she has still moved silently towards becoming a teacher. `I will not become the same kind of teacher as my parents, I will be instructing teachers how to teach instead of teaching pupils within the regular education system.

People`s choices for a career seem to be composed out of three main ingredients. Will it make a living, does it get the parent`s approval and does the job fit with the desired social status. What has or does not have their interest in many cases only comes second. Unlike their Portuguese, Spanish and French counterparts, the Belgians do not commit to the domain they study. Their intellectual level is more important than the title of their diploma, making the labour market a lot more flexible. In practice, it also means that many people follow studies in a domain that enjoys their interest, then choose a career in something different that will allow them to make money. Few people follow their dreams - the choice for a job is usually a compromise between money and bearable routine.

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