What did you want to be when you “grew up?”
I recall two solid career paths I wanted to follow at different points in my childhood and adolescence –
- Broadcast journalism
I grew up, went to college and became, well, not a teacher and not a journalist.
To give myself some credit, I went into undergrad with every intention of becoming a teacher. Starting college 2,000+ miles away from home at 17 years old, I decided to pursue secondary education, essentially allowing me to teach high school. Within my first semester of my freshman year, it became crystal clear that when I graduated in 4 short years, I could be teaching students only 2 or 3 years my junior. This didn’t feel like the right path for me. Not in 4 years, and not in the long term. I had to regroup.
In lieu of actually picking a degree which would lead to an obvious career path, I somehow landed on studying English Literature. It was fine – and odd choice, really, as reading has always been kind of meh to me, but I liked writing. Somewhere along the way, journalism had lost its glamor and appeal, so I went for something that has more ambiguity than a basic business degree.
As planned, I graduated at 21 years old and had no idea what I was going to do with my life. A degree with no clear applicability to any specific path, and I had no real pull toward any specific direction.
Now, 13+ years later, I look back and see the path I’ve taken to this point. I’m the furthest thing from an expert in giving career advice, but I have learned a few things along the way that I’ve kept in the back of my mind:
- The notion of “climbing the ladder” is long gone. It’s a winding path with twists, turns, dips and peaks. You’re not always going to move up to get ahead. In fact, I once took a title demotion for a job that felt like it would expand my knowledge and skills. Spoiler alert: it did.
- No job is ever permanent. Adulthood will come fast and hit hard…and allow you somewhere in the ballpark of 30 years to build your skills. Unlike generations before, millennials have been pegged as the “job hopping” generation, meaning, we’re looking for career experiences that offer us the opportunity to learn and grow in different ways. Workplaces are beginning to embrace this culture and put programs in place to help keep their growing millennial workforce engaged. This can only mean good things for future generations. My point? Try new jobs and take chances. You never know what’s on the other side of an interesting opportunity.
- Everyone’s path looks different. Some of my closest friends, family, and colleagues have always had a specific career field in mind whether it be teaching, marketing, technology, medicine, etc. They went to school to be focused on a specific discipline and have absolutely thrived. I often find myself being envious of their focus and dedication. Then there’s people like me – willing to try out new and different paths that will expose me to different ways of thinking and doing. The path you choose is your own – whether you follow your childhood dream of becoming a teacher, or decide in undergrad you need to make a pivot. Hard work is key, no matter the path, and with hard work comes success.
As I think about how I want my daughter to view work, and when she’s asked what she wants to be when she grows up, I want her to rest assured that it’s ok to not know how to answer the question when she’s 5, 15, or even 25. What’s important is how she embraces experiences to help her be successful…however she determines to define success.