Ask Asad: How do I tell my dad I don’t want to become an engineer?

I want to be an entrepreneur but according to my dad, business subjects are only for incompetent students

Asad Shafi March 27, 2017

Dear Asad,

How do I tell my dad that I don’t want to become an engineer?

When I was younger and selecting subjects to take in O-Levels, my father insisted that I will become an engineer and should select subjects accordingly. I, on the other hand, had intended to choose business-related courses.

I couldn’t explain to him that I have no interest in the field of engineering and will not be able to take the exams. Somehow I managed to pass with average grades but I knew for sure that engineering was not my cup of tea. During A-Levels again, my dad had the same argument; an engineering degree will ensure a bright future for me. It was of no surprise to me that this time I failed. I am not saying that I would have scored the highest marks had I taken business subjects but I know I would not have failed at least.

How do I blame myself for this failure when I didn’t even choose the subjects?

I have no interest in creating things nor do I have the aptitude to study for nine hours a day as the field of engineering demands. Personally, I want to become an entrepreneur but according to my dad, business is the subject for incompetent students.

This mindset of my dad, relatives and many others around me has made my life extremely difficult.

I am now doing my FSC with pre-engineering subjects while my friends are attending the best business schools in the country. I am taunted for being behind my peers with no fault of my own.

As a result of this experience, I suffer from social anxiety and hence fear meeting people. I cannot share this with anyone and sometimes the anxiety takes a toll pushing me to have suicidal thoughts.

If it continues like this, I will be an engineering school dropout working a low-paid menial job and blaming my dad for the rest of my life.

Please help me.

A Forced Student

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Dear Forced Student,

More often than not, in our society, education and thus career choices are forced upon us by our parents. We are pressurised from a terrifyingly young age towards a career that we may not want or can’t do.

Each of us has a different aptitude level towards various subjects; some people are good in Science, some in Business, some in Arts, etc. No one is good in all of the fields. Therefore, coercing someone into choosing a field in which they are naturally not good is cruel and a sure-fire recipe for disaster.

Also, many people who are doing well in “good” careers are simply not that happy with what they do. I see their levels of stress and frustration. And I think that as much as people might underestimate their work potential, they can also overestimate it.

Parents almost always have the best interest of their children at heart but sadly many times, they end up ruining the lives of their children with their choices. Forcing their children to study or take up professions that they don’t want is one of the biggest parenting mistakes they can make. It makes the children unhappy and dissatisfied, which in turn leads to parents becoming unhappy and frustrated, too.

Guidance counsellors, teachers and other influencers constantly remind us that when it comes to selecting our careers, we can be anything we want to be. The decision is ours and ours alone. Now an increasing number of scientific studies are showing that that is only partially true. The reality is that despite what these “outside” voices are saying about career decisions, it is the parents within the family circle who make the strongest impression on our career choices.

The most difficult situation for us, however, is when we have a negatively-involved parent. These parents push their children down career paths of their own choosing and may belittle their children’s choices and impede their progress, if the children and the parents have opposing ideas. This creates an ethos of anxiety and resentment on part of the children, often making the child insecure about whether or not they can be successful in careers they really want.

Sometimes children in these negative situations are perceived as having difficulties making career decisions. In reality, they are reluctant to decide because they are having trouble separating their parents’ expectations from their own goals.

It would be prudent at this point to mention a few reasons why parents forcefully make their children pursue fields of their choice. This will help you better understand your father’s choice and how to deal with your situation.

Parents want to see their dreams fulfilled through their children

We often see parents force their children to be ‘doctors’ or ‘engineers’ because that is what they wanted for themselves but could not become. These parents may be most likely to want their children to achieve the dreams that they themselves have not achieved. So they look upon their children for fulfilling their own unfulfilled dreams. These parents go to great lengths to make their children succeed in an attempt to make up for their own failed dreams.

Some parents see their children as extensions of themselves, rather than as separate individuals with their own hopes and dreams. The more a mother or father sees of themselves in their child, the more likely they are to want them to live their own unrequited ambitions.

Basking in children’s reflected glory, parents’ feelings of regret and disappointment about their own lost opportunities may gradually resolve, and make way for pride and fulfilment.

Pride, prestige and bragging value

If parents believe that their children have opted for successful careers then, in their minds, it gives them the right to be proud and brag about it. It gives them a form of social currency. They can shine for a while at social gatherings and/or on social media, bragging about their children's success stories. They treat their child's performance as an indicator of the quality of their parenting or the quality of the whole family. It's quite silly, but that's how they (many of us actually) behave in their lives.

Herd mentality

Sometimes pressure from parents to choose a career could be because someone they know is doing it successfully. If a relative or neighbour pursued a particularly rewarding career and it worked for them then you are under pressure to follow the crowd.

It’s a family thing

It is quite natural for parents to expect their children to adopt a career-path that a majority of the family members are chose. For instance, a businessman may expect his son to handle his business rather than opting for an alternate career of his choice. Likewise, there are families where the male members are mostly lawyers or doctors. So it is quite natural for parents to expect that their son would also choose the same profession as a career.

It pays well

Sometimes parents insist their children opt for a specific career because there is a lot of money in it. This is a stereotypical view of life in our society. According to this philosophy, work is supposed to bring you good money with which you will be able to pay for a luxurious lifestyle. The fact that you may be emotionally unfulfilled in your profession is of no consequence to parents for whom a salary holds more importance than work satisfaction

Treating children as an investment

Many parents want to secure their old-age future through their children, especially their sons. They want their children to opt for careers that are financially rewarding and ensure a comfortable life for the parents after retirement. These parents believe that paying for their children's education entitles them to dictate what careers their children should pursue in their lives. Sadly, many children think that accepting this generous gesture means that now they should let their parents take charge of their lives – this is how they understand respecting their parents is.

Playing it safe

Most parents want the best for their children; for them ‘best’ often means safety. For them safety is more important than the potential benefits of taking up risks in life – benefits that are completely unknown to them. For them, it’s better to stick to what’s familiar and be safe.

Good parents

Parents want to know that they have done a good job as parents. They want the feeling that tells them that they did everything they could to secure a "good life" for their children. That they will be able to say: "Look at what an awesome job we did as parents."

Peace of mind

Parents' own fears, worries, struggle, pain, disappointments are more than enough for them so they want to eliminate them from the lives of their children as much as they possibly can so that the kids don't have to suffer with them.

Lack of awareness

Most parents lack awareness when it comes to career opportunities. They go with what is well known and popular. Many parents are from an older generation where they settle for secure jobs. But the younger generation is more risk-taking and hence won't be content with some job that occupies their time, but doesn't challenge them.

Ask Asad: My father is a compulsive gambler – how do I help him quit?

Having mentioned all the reasons above, I must also point out the fact that many parents who are involved in taking part in the above-mentioned points do so out of love and to ensure the best possible future for their children. They might be completely selfless and just want to see their children be successful and happy. And for them, happiness comes with career success. And career success comes from choosing safe and "respected" professions, like engineering or medicine.

As for what you need to do, first of all let me commend you on your maturity and honesty in realising that you won’t become a successful engineer because you don’t see yourself studying for nine hours a day and don’t have any interest in building things. Not everyone is honest enough with themselves to accept that they are pursuing a degree that will lead to a career in which they are either not good at or are unhappy practicing or both. You are blessed that you know where your strengths and interests lie.

You face a wicked dilemma: whether to obey your father or rely on your own instinct. A momentous decision hangs in the air, the sort your father can help address, but is unable or unwilling to. I would suggest that you keep the following in mind while making your decision.

Don’t blame yourself

Please do not blame yourself at all for failing in the Science subjects when you sat for your A-Level exams. You didn’t choose them. You were forced to take them.

Each of us has a calling

If you strongly believe that yours happens to be business, then go for it.

Plan of action

I would suggest you stop doing your FSc with pre-engineering subjects and instead enrol yourself in either FSc or A-Level with business subjects. If the time has passed to do these through a school then enrol as a private candidate. In short, please do not waste any more time on subjects that you don’t like and don’t want to pursue.

Try convincing your father

The sad part is that your father doesn’t seem to understand this. He is adamant that you study engineering. Try making him realise that we aren't all the same, and we shouldn't expect to be. Try to convince him that you want to pursue business not because it’s an easy field but because you have a passion for it. Although it might be difficult to share this with your father but do tell him that pursuing a career of his choice is making you have suicidal thoughts.

Don’t feel guilty

You shouldn’t feel ashamed of not wanting the career that your father wants you to have. Choosing a career is a momentous decision and you shouldn’t be doing something that doesn’t make you happy.

Ignore your relatives

What really matters is your belief in yourself and your ability to be able to convince your parents of it. The rest of your relatives shouldn’t matter to you when it comes to choosing a profession. It’s your life, not theirs. There will be many nosy relatives trying to force their thinking on you. Politely ignore all of them and do what you believe is best for you.

The stress you are going through and the suicidal thoughts that you are having are completely natural given the situation you are in. This is because you want to do something very badly, and you feel that you are justified in doing it but are being prevented from doing it because of the biases of loved ones around you.

This anxiety is further compounded by the fact that you have already witnessed how well your friends, who chose business as their choice of study, are doing and are also enjoying themselves all the while pursuing studies of their choice.

But please understand, no matter how difficult a situation might be, suicide is not the answer. Please try not to entertain such thoughts. You are stronger than this. Keep your hope alive and you will definitely come out of this dilemma better and stronger.

Ask Asad: I have panic attacks and once tried to kill myself – what should I do?

If there is no one around you whom you trust enough to talk to, then I very strongly suggest seeing a counsellor. You need someone who will listen to you and can understand your point of view.

I hope you are able to pursue the studies/career of your choice.

All the best!


Asad is a counsellor, life coach, inspirational speaker and a personal-development expert. He advises on social, personal and emotional issues. You can send him your questions for this weekly column at [email protected] with “Ask Asad” mentioned in the subject line and provide as many details as possible.

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Express Tribune.


Ayaz Laghari | 4 years ago | Reply I am also in this similar situation, My father also wanted to me to join the civil service of Pakistan by competing in Central Superior Service examinations. But i attempted and I failed in English and English Essay writing but fortunately i passed in other subject such as Current Affair, Criminology. But during my preparation i also realized my mental capabilities of business, which I shared with my father over a dozen of times but refused every time I wanted to discuss my business ideas with my Dad. But i am also learning business along with my preparation for CSS examination. I wanted to prove by results to my father. Contact me Forced Student on my whatsApp : 03122547902. So that we can share our experience and knowledge and discuss about future plans. Your life is one, your youth years are also limited so try to hit hard. You can still do and prove your worth through your selected field. Best of Luck ....
Ay Jay | 4 years ago | Reply I'm in the same situation. I tried many times but they just won't understand. Eventually, I even graduated with average marks and am forced to do one last year of their choice. After that, it's just me and my life. I m leaving. But you haven't entered a university yet so I'd suggest to go with your choice no matter how angry it makes them. It's your life!
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