“I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up,
but what I do know is I want to be whoever I am,
if I can ever figure that out, I’ll be good.”
-10 year old boy
How often can you recall being asked as a child, what do you want to be when you grow up? Often, this may have been mistaken with, “what job or career will you choose?”. As a parent, how will you help your child discover their own unique path in the world of possibilities? What’s the best way to prepare them?
For some kids, they’ll know at an early age what they want to do in life, some will have a general idea, but many won’t have a clue. However, the consequences of them not making up their mind, can lead to them aimlessly drifting along.
Discovering Who You Are
What if all of us were taught as kids that our first job is to discover who we are and to determine how we wish to express ourselves in the world as opposed to what job to do?
How you express yourself in the world leads one to choose a complementary line of work. On the other hand, if we resort to the traditional career model of choosing work first, it could be much like choosing a costume for a play without understanding the character.
The agony of performing work that doesn’t fit is an experience many of us can relate to. It takes some real planning to change costumes midlife. But, what if we could help the next generation of young people understand and embrace a different process of how to go about choosing their life’s work? What are the missing pieces?
The following are four key ingredients to prepare young people for the working world. Establish these elements as the foundation of your child’s life and a whole new destiny will unfold.
1) Embrace Their Uniqueness
Help your child understand why they’re different (and why it’s okay to be different!). This is paramount to discovering how you wish to express yourself in the world. Make a game of it while doing some family activity like preparing a meal, or while running errands. There’s a game called, “who are you?” The object is for each person to take five minutes and list traits and characteristics about themselves even quirky traits. Ask why each trait was listed and record their responses and from time to time remind them of the answers they gave.
2) Introduce Purpose
Purpose is a key ingredient to introduce as early as possible. Purpose is an ultimate concern. It is the answer to the question of why we do what we do. Spend some down time with your child reflecting why they prefer certain activities while helping them to become aware of the role the activity serves in the world. Ask open ended questions, allowing them time to think about what’s important to them and why. Don’t forget to record their responses. This is an opportunity to help children think beyond their own desires, and consider how what we choose to do and why ultimately impacts their community or even the world.
3) Ask A Different Question
Instead of asking, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Try sharing how certain jobs contributes to making the world a better place. Discuss how your own career path evolved, why you chose it and what purpose it serves. Speak candidly about what you’d wish you had known when you were their age. Wisdom is a key to learning. It is interesting to your children to listen to stories about your regrets as well as your hopes and aspirations. The goal is to shift the mindset. Your child can begin to understand the role choosing a career path plays in choosing their life’s work.
4) Audition For The Role
If you thought you’d like to play a role in a play, what’s the first thing you’d have to do? The answer is audition. It is so important to expose young people to the working world as soon as possible. If your child thinks they’d like to perform a certain job, expose them to the intimate details of the role through job shadowing, informational interviews and mentors. There is nothing more devastating than thinking you want to pursue a certain path but knowing little about the reality of what the work entails.
Next time you are at a networking group or a party instead of asking someone you meet, “what do you do”? Try asking, “So, how does the work you perform make the world a better place?”
Do you have any other techniques for preparing children for the world? Tell us below how you’ve encouraged your children to be themselves and discover their interests.