Popular television shows romanticize professions in order to gain an audience’s interest. However, these glamourizations can impact a person’s motive to pursue a career. Students’ career choices, especially in law, medicine and policing, have shown to be influenced by these TV shows. In a study by Fletchers Solicitors, 39 per cent of millennials stated television shows played a part in choosing their careers.

The doctor: Life-saving hero or exhausted caregivers?

Lilly Wouters, a Calgary physician, says television shows like Grey’s Anatomy make the profession look exciting for the ratings, but it doesn’t reflect practical issues such as years of education, limited sleep and constant pressure.

“We are now the leading profession in suicide. You have to wonder why. On a physician survey, 70 per cent of physicians would not recommend their children go into medicine. That is not how a TV show would sell their show.”

Many professionals spot these inaccuracies thanks to experience but students sometimes base their perception of the profession through media, leading them to pursue an illusion.

image8sizeTelevision watching is more than just a sedentary activity, it can actually romanticize professions and manipulate career choices for those on the other end of the screen. Infographic by Mackenzie Gellner
“Most medicine is not about the excitement of an emergency department, the joy of delivering a baby, or the success of chemo treatment.”

A 2016 peer-reviewed study by a group of German researchers showed the more health-related shows young people watched the more likely they would be to go into that occupation. The study highlighted the problem with young people making the wrong career choices, stating that “misinformed decisions during adolescence may lead to individual problems like discontent, as well as societal problems like a shortage of qualified employees in specific occupational segments.”

Tefani Perera, University of Calgary medicine student, knows once a person enters the program their perspectives will change.

“I think that there is a certain amount of hard work that has to go into getting into medical school in the first place, which continues throughout your training and people soon realize that it may not be as effortless or as easy as it seems on TV.”

However, Perera still enjoys the shows because some aspects are easy to relate to despite the inaccuracies.

“I do love the Mindy Project and I started watching Grey’s Anatomy after I started medical school. Grey’s isn’t always the most accurate, but it’s kind of fun to hear some medical buzzwords here and there, especially when you are first learning,” she explains.

The police officer: Action-packed crimefighter or bureaucratic paper pusher

Constable Chris Martin, communications officer for the Calgary Police Service and former patrol officer, says his day-to-day doesn’t look like the drama-infused lives portrayed on shows such as CSI or Criminal Minds.

“One day you might be driving around, being proactive enforcement of patrol, then the next day you might start your day off attending a fatal car collision … the next day can be sitting down doing nothing but paperwork all day.

You never really know what your day is going to look like.”

In a report by the U.S. based Association for Career and Technical Education, researchers found socialization among teens played a big role in how they chose their careers. The article states the tv drama CSI increased the interest in law enforcement careers. It showed that teens reported using television more than other methods to understand professions. This resulted in the teens knowing significantly less about the careers not featured on television.

Jared Reinhart, training to join the Calgary Police Service, enjoys watching crime and police shows such as Cops, CSI, and the Jump Street films. However, recruits undertake six-and-a-half month training programs that are more mentally and physically demanding than what is portrayed.

image5sizeDemi Okuboyeju (second to the right) at the Law Show, an annual talent show event that students put on. Okuboyeju performed a dance with her in frame friends incorporating afro-beats, Bollywood and ballroom dancing. Photo courtesy of Demi Okuboyeju
“Recruits are trained extensively on the law and all of the tools they get on their belt. Recruits even get tasered and pepper sprayed as part of their training,” says Reinhart.

Although he enjoys the drama on the shows, Reinhart does see how it could influence the way a young person views the career path.

“The job is romanticized in the way that it only appeals to the fast-paced high adrenaline calls of the job. Nobody would watch COPS if it detailed the hours of paperwork involved in the job. It glamorizes a small area of the profession, possibly giving students the wrong idea about what they are getting themselves into.”

The lawyer: Courtroom superstar or methodical case builder?

The courtroom appears on screen as intense, dramatic, and everything is a make-or-break moment. In reality, cases rarely have shocking surprises explains corporate lawyer Brian Evans.

“Conversely on television, lawyers are depicted as brilliant crime solvers whose defendants are often acquitted by the last-minute introduction of evidence proving that the crime was committed by someone else.”

“In fact, this rarely happens because of the rigidity of court process and the rules of evidence and the obligation on the prosecution to disclose fully the evidence behind the decision to lay a criminal charge to the defence resulting in very few actual surprises,” clarifies Evans.

Demi Okuboyeju, University of Calgary law student, classifies legal television shows as the complete opposite of what a lawyer actually goes through.

For one thing, most lawyers aren’t practicing criminal law and don’t spend much time arguing in high-stakes courtrooms. Okuboyeju says there are many solicitors and time is more spent drafting contracts, wills, shareholder agreements, or handling mergers and acquisition.

She explains, “99 per cent of the time is spent in the office writing, reading other case law, and trying to figure out the legal arguments while one per cent of the time is spent in courtroom.”

As for inspiration, Okuboyeju says she was more influenced by the John Grisham book The Rainmaker than any TV show. Even so, she sees why television and movies can have a major impact.

“High school doesn’t do a great job of exposing us to the reality of different professions. So we get to Grade 11 and Grade 12 and we’re making decisions about our careers based off of television instead of conversations we’ve had with working professionals.”

Editor: Emma Stevens | estevens@cjournal.ca

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