What do you want to be when you grow up?

Much to my irritation, I have found that the same question has been repackaged and asked of me since I was in elementary school. As a sophomore in high school, it was “Where do you want to go to college?”. Once I arrived, it was “What do you want to major in?”. In my years as an upperclassman, it morphed into “What do you want to do after graduation?” Even now, I still find that people ask “What do you think you want to do with that?” once I tell them I’m in HR.

All of these questions go back to the underlying “What do you want to be when you grow up?” that we were all asked at the age of 5. I promise you that my 1st grade answer was not “Human Resources Professional”.

In 7th grade, I wrote in my yearbook that I wanted to be a computer programmer because that was the year I discovered how to amuse myself with a graphing calculator in my Algebra class. In college, I had such a love affair with the likes of Borges, Puig and Cortazar in my Spanish literature classes that I envisioned myself going into teaching. It wasn’t until I randomly took an internship in my current field that I ended up realizing that not only was I good at this, but that I actually wanted to learn more and stick with it. Even now, I’m unsure where this is all going. All this talk and action in the social media realm has opened up a new door that I may or may not walk through.

Sometimes you choose your path. The kids in college that are pre-law, pre-med, pre-public health, pre-politics, pre-whatever – they have a plan (hence the pre-), they follow it and the driven ones (and too frequently the not-so-driven ones) will come out the other end. But even within a broad field that plan can change. For instance, my sister the medical student started with the notion of opening a family practice/wellness center, but after doing her rotations, she’s not so keen on family medicine. On the other hand, once she spent some time in emergency medicine, she began to picture herself doing that professionally and is now seriously considering specializing in it. Likewise, a friend of mine spent his whole life as a computer programmer and is now trying to break into the water/energy field because he found that it resonated with him. As for me, I’m questioning now if I want to follow The Pro and head up a front line piece of HR; if I’d rather look to be leading HR from the back end piece of it, which is entirely unfamiliar territory to me; or if I have the urge to explore this new path and dive into social media strategizing. And the best part is, I may end up doing something totally different, something that I haven’t encountered yet.

At work, we all have plaques outside our offices that carry our names and a personal quote. The Pro’s quote is the title of this post: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Personally, I think it’s as much for everyone else as it is for her and I love it – you can spend your whole life asking yourself the question without ever really answering it.

My 1st grade, 7th grade, college and post-college selves may not have been on the same wavelength that I’m on now, but I don’t think they’d disapprove. And what about you? Does your storyline follow a nice and linear plan from start to finish or do you have fun twists and turns along the way? Looking back (or looking forward for that matter), what’s your take?

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4 responses to “What do you want to be when you grow up?

  1. Since college, my idea of what I want to be when I grow up keeps shifting and being refined. Foreign service officer –> development researcher –> contractor/analyst. Focusing on what I like and how to do or get more of that has been really helpful. For example, I want to help people and do research, but I don’t want to work tons of hours for hardly any money, so I’m not even thinking nonprofit anymore. I like maps, so a masters in geography will help me get the kind of job where I can do more with maps. But this isn’t at all what I thought I’d be doing five years ago.

  2. An interesting book to read on this topic is Po Bronson’s “What Should I Do with My Life?” It’s contains stories about how different people answered this question. You can take what you like from it but I always like seeing how people address this question so I really enjoyed it!

  3. My ambitions have ranged from being the first professional female baseball player in MLB…to being a lawyer…to being a performer (HA!)…to being a baker…to being an architect…and now, even as I finish up my masters degree in architecture, I’m pretty sure that at some point in my life I want to head up my own business that has nothing to do with architecture at all (coffee shop & bar)…its kinda funny to think about but I believe that no matter what happens, your interests shift and change and you accomplish as much as you can in doing what you want to do… 🙂 PS – I love your blog!

  4. @Kate – Isn’t it cool to look back and trace how you got from place to place? I’m with you – I never thought I’d be here 5 years ago…or even 3 years ago for that matter.

    @The Pro – Good book to check out! I’ll look into it.

    @Victoria – Happy to see you here! Never should’ve stopped being the first pro female in the MLB, that would’ve been something! You’ll have to keep us all posted as you finish your degree and go on your way, since your path is ever changing. Thanks for the thoughts!

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