“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Since our early days of backpack cubbies and spelling tests, we have been prompted to answer this looming question. Many years later, as college students, we are still being probed, “what do you plan to do with your major?” or “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” Although seemingly harmless, these inquiries have incidentally shaped the nature of our society’s idealization of having a “career path.”
Even as a jumper-wearing attendee of a small, all-day kindergarten, I never had a definitive answer to this question. Then, surrounded by future cowboys and astronauts, and now, future accountants and physical therapists, I have always felt inept due to my lack of identification with a sole career goal. However, I have come to realize that I am not the problem. The issue lies in the question, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” for implying that we need to BE one singular thing.
Sure, many find that they have one true calling in life, pursue it, and become extremely successful. However, for those of us who don’t, we must remember that it is OKAY.
Frankly, it’s more than okay.
In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average professional will hold 10 jobs before the age 40. That is 10 unique learning experiences, 10 opportunities to build meaningful connections, and 10 chances to discover more about yourself than you would in a solitary position.
Having gained some perspective on the matter, I truly believe that the best thing for me is lacking a mapped-out path to my future. Why? Because the unknown drives me to investigate, experience, and discover much more than I ever would if I had committed to pursuing one career long ago.
We shouldn’t sell ourselves short, assuming that we must narrow our multifaceted beings into a single interest area.
The demands of society hang over the heads of those of us who are undecided, pressuring us to reach a conclusion on our future careers before we are ready. However, I believe that by pigeonholing myself into a single job prematurely, I would be depriving myself of the ultimate learning experience: exploration.
By exploring many aspects of the professional world, I have come to learn what I value, what I am good at, and most importantly, what I love to do…Now, all that’s left is to chase my passions, and trust that my career will find me.
The best advice I have ever received is, “everything comes when you stop looking for it.” That is not to say that we should sit idly, hoping for an opportunity to come our way. Rather, it suggests that we should get out there, try new things, do what we enjoy, work hard, and put ourselves in the position for success to occur naturally.
Life has a funny way of working out when we least expect it to. So, why spend our time agonizing over our career destination when the most important part is the winding journey that takes us there?