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what to be when you grow up…

October 25, 2016

I recently tried to explain my job to a 7 year old.  His response was “that sounds boring”.  He was right, to a 7 year old whose awareness of occupations is tow truck drivers, mechanics, farmers, fire fighters, dental assistants, paramedics, and teachers; my explanation that I write reports, read information, talk to people, and mostly sit at a desk in an office; is boring.

When discussing how people end up in the occupations they have, I have often said that our paths are frequently shaped by the exposure we have as children and youth to various occupations.  If we never hear about or see in action a specific occupation or job/career, I think we are less likely to consider it as an option for ourselves.  It is common for the children of nurses to pursue careers in health care; it is common for the children of teachers to become teachers, it is common for the children of company CEOs to enter the field of business.  Now I know this is not always the case, but it is general pattern (yes there are also many exceptions to this).

As I have reflected on the explanation of my job that I gave that 7 year old, I’ve realized I could have done a better job.  My intent was to put the various tasks and activities in my days/weeks into words and concepts he could understand.  However, in doing that, I failed to share the less tangible aspects of my job that are also essential to provide a full picture of what I do.  For example, that I help change the path of people’s lives by linking them with the support they need to be successful and valued members of their community.

So back to the title – what will you be when you grow up…  I think we all have a responsibility to help the children and youth in our circles learn about the various occupations and job/careers and ways to contribute to our communities (by volunteering, being involved, informally helping others, etc).  It’s easy to ask a child or youth what they want to be when they grow up, to listen to their answer and to be encouraging of their aspirations.  More rarely do we find ways to talk to children and youth about what how we spend our days.  But you widen the worldview of a child or youth by also sharing what you do each day (ideally using a not so boring description).  That child/youth may not be drawn to what you do, but we do children/youth a dis-service when we don’t provide them with options, when we fail to help them see that there are many ways to spend their days/evenings, and when we assume they are not interested or won’t understand.  True choice is based in understanding all the options that are available.

 

One last thought – I also think it’s good to let children and youth know that sometimes even at 40, you still aren’t sure what you want to be when you grow up, that some of us are stilling figuring it out.

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