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What Do I Want To Be When I Grow Up?

What Do I Want To Be When I Grow Up?

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We have all heard the question, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” At some point, we’ve felt a great deal of anxiety in trying to answer it. My major hang up is, what if I never grow up? I mean, I don’t recall tripping over some threshold during my life where I suddenly thought, “Oh, NOW I’m grown up.” Getting married, having kids, paying mortgages, celebrating 30th birthdays, health insurance, 40th birthdays, none of these actually have much to do with my career… right?

Let’s define “Grown up.”

I guess if we’re going to funnel my entire future into one container called “Grown Up,”we need to lay some parameters. For our purposes, let’s say in order to be considered grown up you have to be in a career that pays you what you’re worth (or what you feel your worth… for now, let’s assume those are the same).

You should be stable in your career, stable in your relationship status (married, single or otherwise) and able to say you’re committed to where you are in this stage of life. Sweet, I’m grown up. Technically. Now, stable is a relative term I suppose. I might interact with someone who seems completely lost in space but they feel perfectly stable in their life and in their career. But, let’s just say you can look at yourself from someone else’s perspective and reasonably say that you’re stable.

Now let’s define “What I want to be…”

Sometime in my life, I think I said I wanted to be a radio DJ. Recently, I wanted to be a golf professional. Well, when I “grow up” I think I just want to be happy. Cop out answer? Yeah maybe.

But it’s the truth. I am getting more and more experience as the days go by and I know that with that experience, the buzzword of the millennium in career planning, I will be an asset to any company I work for in any capacity. So, the next time someone asks you, “what do you want to be when you grow up” or “what can you do with a degree in philosophy,” answer with this, “Anything I want.”

How do you get there?

The newest trends in job markets present recent college grads or recent career transitioners with a challenge that starts and ends with experience. Nowadays, a college graduate is getting into the job market and competing against 40-year-olds with a wide array of experience instead of just competing with fellow college grads. People in career transition are on the opposite end competing with someone with DIRECT knowledge or experience in a field they are trying to break into.

So, how do YOU, the career explorer, ensure that you’re able to meet your goals of being happy in your career? Get experience… any way that you can.

If you’re in college, do an internship. Join those organizations that can help you gain professional development opportunities as early as possible. Get a job. Do SOMETHING that prepares you to be an employee. Volunteer. Don’t just sit in a classroom and think that you’re getting your entire education.

If you’re working at a job that you want more out of, GET more. Read up on things that interest you. Make doing what you do fun. Seek out projects that challenge you to grow. Take on more responsibility wherever possible. Get the most out of your current role, regardless of its potential for growth.

So, what do you want to be when you grow up? Ask yourself that question, and if you answer it and don’t like where you’re at right now, make the change. It will start slowly, and painfully, but in order to get to where you want to be, it’s going to take some work.

Now what?

So, now that you’ve attained career nirvana, what’s next? Sit back and wait for retirement?  Nah, you’re not going to have any trouble filling the time. When you’re in a career that you love, and I mean LOVE… you’ll have no effort in finding new and exciting projects or opportunities. You’ll love coming to work, EVEN ON A MONDAY. Why not look for that job, and make it your number one goal to attain? Love what you do.


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Joe Winkler Joe Winkler works in higher education and is passionate about helping people figure out what they want in work and in life.