“What are you going to be when you grow up” is a question we have all been asked by family and friends at some point during our adolescence. Keep in mind that I also know many adults who still cannot offer a lucid answer, yet we expect a teenager to have a plan. The question is not always asked to obtain an exact answer, but rather to get the youngster thinking and reflecting on their future. There are exceptions, as we all have met people who, at the age of 5, knew that they would be in a certain career. The reality is that most of us will not have this same experience and will discover our true passions and career paths in our 20’s, 30’s, or 40’s, so everyone’s journey is different.
Choosing The Right Career
The best strategy for any student to prepare for a future career is to spend time understanding better of their individual passions, skills, and aptitudes. There are assessments, inventories, and other tools that can help identify an individual’s profile, but it can be as simple as making some lists. With this information, look to find careers that match your profile. The most insight would be gained by interviewing people who work in the field you seek or having the chance to ‘try-on’ the career through volunteer hours, internships, or part-time employment.
The reality of a job may be very different than your perceived vision of the daily routine, so better to know early in the process. You will likely spend more time surrounded by people you work with than with your own family, so find a career that excites you and is not just ‘a job’. Money is a driving force for many career and employment decisions, as each person has a perceived value for their contributions, but money will not buy happiness. If the opportunity arises to do something that you love and you can call it a job, trust me, you will be happiest.
Reflect and Re-evaluate
Growing up is hard. Every student will also reach a point in their lives when they become independent, by choice or circumstance. Leaving the family nest and leaping into the world with great ambitions is exciting, but can be frightening at the same time. You will not be in control of everything around you, so expect to experience challenges, roadblocks, and detours, but embrace these learning opportunities as they aid with your personal growth. Know that errors will be made, and new plans will emerge as you adjust your path forward, including ‘rerouting’ towards unanticipated positive experiences and amazing people you may never have encountered without the detour.
Factors Affecting Career Path
I will be honest, my future-viewing crystal ball is a bit fuzzy in its ability to predict what career will be ‘hot’ in ten years, require little or no work, and provide you with a fast-track to becoming a billionaire at 30. Our world is changing quickly with the advent of new technologies, so many jobs held by millions of workers today may be non-existent ten years from now. I remember when large shopping malls were packed and served as a primary source for clothes, food, and entertainment. Now, Amazon may soon be sending a drone to your house the same day you order, groceries are delivered to your door within two hours, and movies are available ‘on-demand’ on the 65” TV in the living room. Many unknowns will have influences the direction of many career paths. Robotics, artificial intelligence, climate change, political unrest, and many other factors will dictate the future course of our economy. Prepare to be a part of the change, not affected by it.
A few years ago, I asked a roomful of 3rd and 4th graders the same question, “What will you be when you grow up?”. And, you can probably anticipate their responses. Firefighter, doctor, scientist, and astronaut were the most frequent careers mentioned, but the response from a student in the front row caught my attention. When asked, this 10-year-old proudly shouted, “I want to be a YouTuber!” These elementary-aged kids knew about social media, the perceived wealth of online personalities, and the way it seemed like easy money. There was a murmur of laughter from the student’s classmates, but I decided to turn this into a teaching moment. We began discussing and identifying the skills and knowledge needed to have a career ‘as a Youtuber’.
By the time we finished, the list included marketing, public speaking, computer technology, accounting, business, finance, and offering a product/service that people would want or need. Even if this one student did not become famous in the virtual world if she prepared by learning about these topics while in school/college. She would also be prepared to consider opening a small business in the ‘real world’… maybe a ‘brick-and-mortar’ site on Main Street, USA.