The Worst Ten Words to Stress Over
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
To some people, that is the worst combination of ten words in the English language. The question never really stops being asked, not even in adulthood: it simply changes form. “Where do you see yourself in ten years?” is the adult version, and it will haunt you forever if you let it. The key phrase there is “let it,” because you do have a choice.
Many kids believe that adults have it all figured out: doctors are doctors because they were basically born as such, and teachers knew that they’d be teachers as soon as they started school. But as we transcend adolescence, we realize that our adult selves are simply our adolescent selves with more responsibility. We are who we are and it’s important not to ignore that by arbitrarily picking a career because it simply sounds good. Rather, we should find out what we like to spend time doing, and work from there to find a way to make a living doing it.
You don’t need to decide exactly what you want to do, or to be. It’s interesting that we so often use the verb “to be” when describing a particular career, because you aren’t your career; you’re a person. You have a whole host of likes and dislikes, and a personality that isn’t restricted to whatever job you decide to choose. Finding out what these likes and dislikes are will help you figure out what skills you should develop so that your occupational choices are left open.
What do you enjoy spending time doing? Make a list. Many people do this backwards; they pick a job, and then try to develop the skills they need to do it. Instead, make another list of things you’re good at. Are you patient with kids? Good with animals? Do you write really well, or sing, or dance, or act? Maybe you’re a math or computer whiz, or you spend your free time conducting science experiments. Whatever it is, write it down. These lists will help you come up with another list of jobs you might like to do.
Don’t forget that once you’ve found a job you like, and you’re doing it – you’re an “adult” – you aren’t locked in. You might work a whole host of jobs for different companies before you find one that you really love – or, you might find that you really love changing jobs every few years. Regardless, practice cultivating your skills and developing your strengths so that you’re prepared for the family of jobs that really is right for you.