Thursday, February 05, 2009

What Are You Going to be When You Grow Up?

The question, "What are you going to be when you grow up?" always annoyed me as a kid. I found it so predictable that I avoid asking it to kids I meet now, Instead, I end up asking the equally-lame "What's your favorite subject in school?" But it is an important question--especially for children. It is much more important as kids get older.

I was recently considering a statistic I learned while I was getting my degree. I took a course in college about sex and society. I had very few opportunities to enjoy non-technical classes, so I really wanted them to be interesting. During the course, the professor stated that one of the factors related to reducing teenage pregnancy was whether the girls had a vision for their future. Girls with a vision for their future were less likely to end up pregnant during their teenage years. I found that bit of information interesting enough to retain for the last 15 years.

During a recent party, I had an opportunity to interact with a number of different types of people. One thing became really clear--so many people ended up in 'it's a job' type of work. A lot of those same people continued that way year after year. Just floating from one type of work to another or making self-destructive choices. During a conversation, I got a chance to talk to a person who recently started the hard work of undertaking a long-term plan and they were excited and thrilled even with the hard work. Another person couldn't elaborate what they wanted to do even as their life is just beginning. It was interesting to see the two situations at one time.

Planning is important for all people. It's especially important when kids can be making choices that could allow or eliminate entire career paths. Kids need to plan--that means picking a goal, or vision for their own future. That helps them to make decisions that are more likely to help them reach that goal.

I was reminded of what the professor had said. A vision of the future allowed many teenagers to avoid the trap of teenage pregnancy. I could see how a vision of the future re-energized an older person and a lack of vision could lead a teenager to any old job. So, parents, ask, ask, and ask again what your children what to be when they grow up. Help them try on careers by suggesting the many varied options available to them. And let them think big! Ask other people's kids, too. You will be helping kids toward a more satisfying future and teaching them a very important life skill.


christinemm said...

Good post. I think it is good too, to ask kids of their passions, it might just make them think about what it is they like and how it may parlay into a career.

Kim said...

Asking about what kids love is a great way to help them pick a career. It helps if they're good at it, too! I hope, though, that as they get older they start considering how their passion will mesh into a career that will sustain them and their other goals as they get older. For instance, I know a number of philosophy and English undergrad degree holders that stopped with their undergraduate degrees only to discover that their goals were only partly fulfilled--they had forgotten to continue to work to decide how to get paid doing that kind of work. If you can't get paid with your original goal--you are generally again back to finding 'some job.' It is the rare person who finds 'some job' and still actively pursues the extra work required to have their passion as their actual career.

Some degrees just aren't all they are cracked up to be; especially given the cost.

Terri Sue said...

So far, All I've got from our son is what he doesn't want to be! :)
I guess that's the process of elimination!

Be blessed

jugglingpaynes said...

Very interesting perspective.
From my own experience, I've found that I was so-so at a lot of things, and I only felt direction when I focused on one interest at a time. Which was always hard for me. I also had many people telling me what I "should" do. This made things worse because I'm a pleaser.

I see this in my daughter as well. I try to help her by telling her that picking a goal doesn't mean you can't change your mind later and go in another direction. I tell her not to worry about what others think she should do, because each of us gets one life to live, we can't borrow someone else's. I wish someone had told me that when I was her age.

Kim said...

I was torn between art and engineering. You could not find two more disparate careers. I loved them both, I was good at both, but I did have to decide between the two. There was no way to go to college for both--almost no overlapping courses and not enough time or money to spend additional years, along with engineering being more intense in course-load and work-level than many other majors. I chose engineering because I could support myself well after college. So it is great to encourage exploring every option, by the last years of high school are really the crunch time.

Of course one can always switch majors, but only if your high school record supports the pre-requisites for the new field. So take stock of each serious interest and make sure all of them are take into account in high school courses so the options are left open.

You are absolutely right though that you can change! Even if you need to back-track and take additional courses, you are never, ever locked into one thing. Like me and working and then choosing to homeschool.

Rational Jenn said...

We encourage planning--at least short-term--by asking "What is your work going to be today?" And we also have lots of talks about the kind of work grownups do. We may talk about it more than most because my oldest is SO into the subject. Peopleguys and all. :o)

We also give them a longer-range POV about useful things they learn--hey! that math comes in handy when you're figuring out how much money you have, etc. My kids are younger than some of yours, so your post has got me thinking about how to continue the conversation.