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?