Last week, the ONS brought out results of a survey into whether teenagers who were asked about their career ambitions actually took on those jobs after a few years, and what emerged is that, in the vast majority of cases, they didn’t. Of course, with most of us facing several career changes throughout our lives, ‘ending up’ somewhere doesn’t really make sense any more, so there’s nothing to say that those teens’ earlier dreams won’t still happen. But it’s a curious thought that we place so much stock in childhood ambition, when other childhood thoughts are dismissed as unimportant or immature. Here are a few reasons that, whatever you wanted to be when you grew up, it might not be the wisest to still want that today.
If you can’t see it, you can’t be it
This refrain, noted by Nick Chambers of Education and Employers in the above article, holds a lot of weight. Representation matters to us at all stages of our life, from seeing our own faces in the books we read to there being more men called David than there are women (nine vs eight) at chief executive level in the FTSE 100.
When it comes to children, they often have limited frames of reference, which can lead to more traditional job ideas such as hairdresser, actor, doctor etc. This demonstrates the importance of widening your networks as you grow older, and exploring opportunities in sectors that aren’t so immediately visible to end consumers.
The times, they are a-changing
Tying in to representation comes the difficulty that arises when a lot of jobs are new, emerging, and niche – or don’t even exist yet. Not everyone will know an ethical hacker or a cyber crime fighter; a degree in entrepreneurship might seem like a counterintuitive path for someone with an immediate business idea, but may help you later down the line; what’s becoming more and more important are transferable skills (and meta-skills), so that you #StayNimble enough to jump into a new and exciting role when one presents itself to you.
What do kids know about the world of work, anyway?
Expectation versus reality definitely plays a big part in our changing mindsets as we grow. When I was a child, I wanted to be a librarian; my local librarian Julian knew everything about every book (it seemed), so I assumed he got to sit and read them all day. As I grew older I realised that a) there is no time for a librarian to sit and read, b) it’s quite a specialised systems management role, and c) even the customer service part is less obvious now, as most libraries have automatic machines which will do the scanning/checking in/checking out.
It can easily happen that you love the idea of being a doctor, but it’s really helping people that you enjoy, and you can do that in myriad ways that don’t involve bodily smells. Or you want to be an actor because you watch Game of Thrones, but don’t realise until you get on stage that the vulnerability you need absolutely terrifies you. That’s OK – understanding yourself is a process, not a singular action, and changing your mind can be a strength, not a weakness.
Past you is a stranger
Life shapes us with every turn it takes. Whether you recognise it or not, you are vastly different to the person you used to be; you handle things differently, you like different music and food, you talk to different people, you know different things. When experiences have made you into another person, why would you do what that younger person is still telling you to do?
Whatever you wanted to be when you were younger, whether it’s the same or radically different, it’s what you want to be now that matters. To know yourself better, sign up to Stay Nimble and set up your profile now.
Katherine is a qualified careers advisor and a member of the Career Development Institute. She has just begun a PhD programme to research meta-skill development in the workplace, and is a fiction editor and publisher in her spare time. You can find her on Twitter at @katobell.