It’s a question that befuddles many adults, and one we even joke about, “Hmmm…I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.” It’s a question I find younger children are enthusiastic about answering, “Princess. Doctor. Firefighter. Baseball Player. Ballerina.” But as our children grow older though, it becomes a more serious question—one that sometimes elicits shrugged shoulders, incomplete answers, and the plain old “I don’t know.”
I’ve been teaching college for a little over 11 years now, and I’ve spent much of that time working with first year students.
I know many driven students who knew exactly what they wanted; I know others who took a more
exploratory approach to college; and I know many who just flat out didn’t know what they wanted to do. I know students who don’t belong in college, not because they aren’t smart enough, but because college does not provide a path to what they really want to do.
And many of those smart, capable students waste a bit of time and money as a result of uncertainty in their options.
So, that question—What do you want to be when you grow up—needs to be a jumping off point for career exploration, reality checks, and self-growth.
That question—What do you want to be when you grow up—needs to be a jumping off point for career exploration, reality checks, and self-growth.
Is your child aware of their interests and how they might translate to a job or career? They can list out interests, or take an interests index quiz.
Researching potential careers allows kids to better position themselves when it comes to understanding what courses to take, whether they need to attend college, and so on.
Face the realities.
That initial research and self-reflection also allows our children to consider the costs of specific careers. The number one career dream I see changing in the first year of college is medical doctor. Does your child want to go to school for ten years? Do they want to work 12 hour shifts?
Looking into the requirements of specific career fields is an important step for high school students to take before they’ve selected schools or imagine their futures. But internet research alone won’t help them fully make a decision.
Job shadowing and internships in high school arm our kids with experiences to help them determine whether they truly want to go down a certain career path.
At fifteen, our children may want to be accountants; at nineteen, they may discover a love of writing. We have to be open to the idea of change for our kids. In the meantime, we also need to engage them in conversations and activities that allow them to explore their future so that they can grow into the successful adults they are destined to be.