Youth in focus: Hi Lam,

I  graduated from college this summer and am now looking for a job. My parents want me to take the RCSC exam and work in an office, but I really don’t enjoy office work. Instead, I want to do something creative and also travel overseas. Should I just follow my parent’s instructions or listen to my own heart. 

Confused guy, Thimphu 

This is a common dilemma these days. When your parents grew up, the best jobs available were those in the government service. White collar (or in Bhutan perhaps we should say ‘white sleeve’) jobs offered security and a certain prestige. This is still true, but nowadays there are many options available that did not exist when your parents were young. Furthermore, there is a surplus of candidates for positions in the government service and so passing the RCSC exam is no guarantee that you will actually be selected for a job.

Maybe I’m directing this response more to your parents than to you: Personally, I feel that as a parent we should definitely guide and advise our children. This is not only our duty, but something that should naturally arise from the heart of a loving mother or father. At the same time, we should not force our children into a job or an educational programme for which they have no interest or talent – so many youth are really depressed these days because their parents have done just that.

Instead, it would be better to whole-heartedly encourage our children to enter a profession or training programme for which they have a natural talent or interest. Of course, there may have to be tradeoffs and compromises as many dreams cannot practically be translated into reality. Still, we should not compel our children into a career based on our personal prejudices. Furthermore, we need to think whether our advice really has the interests of our children at heart or is it aimed at boosting our own social standing and ego. Basically, our advice should be solely focused on inspiring our children to achieve their potential in life, and there should be no thoughts of personal gain.

In reality, of course, any job can be a satisfying experience. It really depends on our mindset. If you work in an office, for example, rather than resist the work you should aim to make the entire day a cool and rewarding experience. Here are some tips: At the beginning of each day, make your work space clean and orderly and inspire yourself to do your work with energy and in a beautiful way: If you have to write a letter or even a hundred letters, choose words that are easy to read and convey your message simply, clearly and politely.  Basically, write correspondences that you yourself would be happy to receive.  When a member of the public comes to your office, don’t pull a face, but instead see the encounter as a way to open your mind. If they present a difficult problem, embrace it as a way to test your ability to deal with situations. In this respect, talk to the person as you would to an old friend and aim to complete their work efficiently and smoothly. To set yourself in the right mode, you can start each day by making a simple vow: “May whoever comes to me for assistance leave the office feeling satisfied (and with a smile on their face)”.  If you can do this, you will develop a big heart and an open mind. As a result, you will no longer call out, “Thank god it’s Friday” but instead shout, “Thank god it’s Monday.” HAHA

Now, if you really want to be smart, then remind yourself that you, the person receiving your service and the service itself are no more real than a fleeting scene in a dream or in a movie (OK, I know that this is difficult, but it will become clear if you contemplate ‘emptiness’)*. Finally, at the end of the day, you can mentally dedicate any benefits of your day’s efforts to the welfare of all beings: “May everyone be liberated from suffering and its causes. You can do the same when you are preparing tea, building a wall or making a pizza. In this way, you can transform your entire day into something cool, positive and a little crazy.

Anyway, to return to your question, I suggest that you calmly talk to your parents about your career. Explain why you want to do a particular job and provide examples of ‘respectable’ people who are doing this kind of work. With regard to your specific aspirations, maybe hotel work (chef, front desk or management) is an appropriate and convenient option as it requires creativity and also offers the possibility to go overseas.

*Earlier post on emptiness:

Shenphen Zangpo was born in Swansea, UK, but spent more than 28 years practicing and studying Buddhism in Taiwan and Japan. Currently, he works with the youth and substance abusers in Bhutan, teaching meditation and organising drug outreach programmes.

Email to for any queries


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