When I was younger, maybe around five or six years old I wanted to be one of those beautiful and graceful ballerina’s that I saw on TV. I took ballet lessons and proudly earned my Pointe shoes. Then at around ten years old I wanted to be a singer and I took music and voice lessons. I sang every chance I could and even wrote my own songs. When I reached my earlier teen years, I loved drawing and writing. I scribbled on the side of my classroom notebooks and used up every last inch of white space on any type of paper I could get my hands on. Then when I took a creative writing class my love for drawing and writing elevated to creating comic book characters and stories. Then in my later teen years I thought it would be exciting and dangerous if I could be a CIA agent or a spy. It wasn’t until later in college I realized that I needed to find a balance and to stop jumping around so much in my career choices.
Why I remember these changes in career choices helped shaped me to who I am today. And although it might have seemed like I was jumping around in my decisions, I realize now, many years later, that taking all the voice, dance, and art lessons made me see that there is so much out there in the world than what I could ever find studying in a textbook. Life can take you on many different paths and you can have many different experiences, but it is how you use those experiences that can help you grow and succeed.
When we’re young we are shaded by reality, by what the “real” world means. We don’t really see what mom and dad sees and we are protected in our home where dinner is always on the table, the carpets are always immaculate, and the clothes magically wash and fold themselves. But as we mature and go through stages in life, reality starts to sink in a bit more. Perhaps it’s seeing our parents’ tired faces after a long day at work or finding out that the family car broke down and we can’t go anywhere until it’s fixed. All the little instances in reality starts to seep into our mind and experiences until one day, hopefully, we can make wiser and smarter choices in our adulthood.
So while we are all on summer break, let’s take a moment and ask our children who they want to be when they grow up. They might answer you intellectually, “who could I be but myself?” Indeed. Because if we could all be ourselves then this world could be a lot different. But the “who” isn’t attached to a person in this instance. Rather it’s an identity of your adult self. Ask them how they see themselves when they’re grown up and what roles they want to play when they’re on their own. For some kids, they might already have a heartfelt understanding of their calling. For most others, they don’t realize what their true interests are until much later on. It could be a very confusing question to most children, and heck, even adults ask themselves this question every so often. So let’s raise the bar a little and delve more into this important life question.
In a recent conversation with a friend, we were talking about how to ask kids what they want to be when they grow up. There was an online article that my friend read, about why we shouldn’t be asking our kids what they want to be when they grow up. Rather, we should be asking kids what they hope to change in the world or hope to accomplish when they’re grown. While those are all noble and sensible questions, it could also lead to more confusion. Depending on the age, children can answer those questions based on their own life experiences. At five years old, a child might answer that they hope to change the world by making Lego a mandatory class in school. Or an eight year old could answer that they hope to accomplish building the highest tower with Lego bricks. Either way, young children and even pre-teens can only hope to accomplish within their means. I have yet to meet a child who would answer that question with an, “I hope to end world hunger”. Of course there are really no right or wrong answers (unless it’s an illegal career choice) so listening to their opinions and choices might open up a lot of opportunities for them.
In a recent article on thebalancecareers.com, a website that helps with careers, the article talks about how to help children choose a career for their future. Some useful tips include reading about different careers so your child can understand what the career entails. Or helping your children learn about themselves so that they can discover their interests, values, personalities, and aptitudes. Even as young as three years old you can see what your child’s interests are in how they play. Perhaps they like Lego over puzzles. Or can’t stop playing video games. Or even play endless games of “doctor”. Some personalities can give you a better idea of what your child likes to do so that you can slowly guide them into a right career path for them. But what age is the best to start talking about a career choice? That depends on your child and your home situation.
When my sister was five years old, she realized that she wanted to be a doctor. How she felt that calling at such a young age is beyond amazing. But she never faltered in that choice and to this day she has never regretted making that very determined decision. In an article in Money magazine, the author states that children and parents should start thinking about their career choices before entering high school. You have to consider that with college tuition getting higher and higher and jobs nowadays require more than a Bachelor’s Degree, you’d have to start saving up for college the minute your kids are born. Personally, I think guiding your child to a particular career choice as soon as possible can only help and not hinder. Of course, they might change their minds a hundred times throughout their school years and that’s okay. As long as there is some interest and inkling of what they’d like to do in the future then pushing them a bit could help them make up their mind.
US.News recently published their top 100 career choices. Here are the top ten that are most sought-after and popular throughout the United States:
1- Software Developer
3- Physician Assistant
4- Nurse Practitioner
8- Obstetrician and Gynecologist
9- Oral Surgeon
10 – Physician
As you can see, these are all pretty high goals to reach and certainly not probable for everyone. Not everyone can afford to go to college or even get a high-demand job. But if your child shows interest in something that garners a college degree then getting them to talk about it or learning more about the career at a young age is certainly recommendable.
When my son was much younger, he was determined to be a police officer. There was something magical and cool in police cars and their sirens. But he was also a Lego fanatic and wanted to work for the Lego company. Now that he’s older, his interests have changed in tune to what his life experiences have taught him. He still thinks that being a police is cool and on occasion the Lego inspiration springs up. As his mom, I’ve had several conversations with him about what he wants to do “when he’s grown up.” And I find that when he asks his dad questions about his job and shows interest in his cousins’ careers there is definitely a gleam in his eyes. And the occasional eye roll of course…