Skip to main content

Guest Blog by Adele Leah – We need to stop asking kids this career question

“What d’you want to be when you grow up?”

It’s a big question — one I spent years asking myself! And even though it took a lot of soul-searching before I finally found the answer, it’s a question I love to ask.

I especially love asking it to kids, as I’m always intrigued by their dreams and vision of the world, by the different careers they think are available, and by the reasons why they want to be involved in them.

From those who want to be firefighters (because they want to be heroes and help people), to those who want to be pop stars (because they want to be famous and have lots of money), you always hear an interesting answer! Some kids are especially spot on with what’s involved in the various jobs and seem to know very early on — much earlier than I did! — what they want in their lives and why.

For example, I asked my niece the big question when she was 10 years old, and she immediately told me that she wanted to be a paediatrician, so she could make sure that “all the babies were happy and healthy”!

(Now she’s 15, the paediatrician role has been toned down a tad, though she’s still very clear that she wants to work with babies and children.)

Personally, I had no clue what I wanted to be “when I grew up”… and that’s probably part of why I put growing up on hold until my thirties, when things finally started to become clear for me.

But the reality is that our education system is HUGELY focused on this question.

We’ve often barely entered our teens when we’re encouraged to decide on a career path to pursue.

What’s more, the question often asked of us is, “What do you want to DO?”

This particular question ironically encourages us to focus on a profession, despite the fact that at the age of 14-16, we can’t possibly know what exactly certain professions involve or if they’d be right for us.

Not to mention the fact that most teenagers only know about a handful of professions, and what with new roles and industries evolving all the time, the professional landscape might be completely different by the time they enter the workforce.

Personally, I spent a whole decade at the start of my career searching for what I “wanted to do”… and I got it horribly wrong a lot of the time!

This sent me questioning and searching for alternative ways to find an answer.

And I now like to reframe the question entirely — to “Who do you want to BE when you grow up?”

Because with this question, we can develop a bigger idea of the person we want to be, not just the job we want to do.

Reframing the question in this way was a game-changer for me when I was feeling lost in my search for a dream job.

It was only when I started to explore in more detail who I was as a PERSON — thinking about what would make me happy, what I wanted to be known for, and what I wanted to achieve — that a whole new world of opportunities opened up and I really came up with a clear career plan.

Also,  I might add,  this wasn’t a career plan full of job titles, but a career plan with specific goals, outcomes, and motivations.

It was the type of career plan that adds an exciting kick to your Monday morning, and leaves you with a Friday feeling of fulfilment (not TGIF)!

That approach made me realise that you CAN love what you do, that there IS such a thing as career satisfaction, and that a job isn’t just about working to pay the bills.

If you want to achieve that feeling for yourself, here are some questions to ask to help you on your way:

What emotions do I want to feel on a daily basis?What am I doing when I’m at my happiest?How would I like to change things or make an impact?What do I want to be known for?What do I want to achieve during my career?What values are important to me?

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter which stage of your career you’re at.

Whether you’re just graduating from college or are a seasoned professional, it’s never too late to stop and ask yourself…

“Who do I want to BE?’’

Try asking yourself that question, and then tell me the answer in the comments below!

If you’re ready to change things up in your career but are searching for who you want to be, my FREE 5 Days to Career Breakthrough Course can help you pull out the answers you’re looking for – sign up today – ,