Column, Looking Back

Looking Back: Choosing your career

A common question that children are asked is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Odds are that their answer will not be the future profession they choose after graduation.

I read a survey that was given to children in the U.S. whose ages ranged from 8-12. The child who said he wanted to be “A YouTuber!” speaks to the era that we are living in. The other two most popular answers were “a teacher” and a “professional athlete. “The education field could definitely use more teachers. And a pro athlete who plays football, baseball and basketball certainly makes a lot of money. Unfortunately, we adults know that the chances of playing in a professional sport are slim to none.  

I looked back at my own career path as well of that of my friends and classmates. Some of us did exactly what we planned to do. Others went in an entirely different direction.

I have a few friends who became nurses well into their adult life. They had all been a part of the business world and in their 30s, 40s and early 50s headed to college to become registered nurses. Their kind and caring nature is exactly what you want from someone who is charged with your care. With age comes wisdom and when you have seen your own family members and friends deal with an illness you can relate more to what your patients are going through.

My own approach to a career choice was somewhat backwards. I wanted to major in Latin and the only logical profession in which I could use my degree was to become a teacher. Latin quickly disappeared from school curriculums shortly after I began to teach. I did a quick turn-around and entered the business world. That was actually a better fit for me but I didn’t know that at age 21 when I graduated from college.

Sometimes a task you enjoy doing seems like a good field to study. I have a relative who went to school to be a hairdresser and ended up in an office as an administrative assistant. The salary and benefits far exceeded what she would have made as a hairdresser. By keeping her beautician license up to date she could still do that type of work in her spare time. That was the best of both worlds.

Then there is my college classmate who wanted to work in a science lab doing research. Someone from her local high school asked her to teach science and math classes so she got her certification and was going to try it for a year.

She never left teaching because she loved it so much.

Another friend started off as a teacher and ended her working career in the field of gerontology after adding another degree to her resume. Sometimes you just stumble on a profession that is right for you by being exposed to various fields in your day-to-day life.

It might take us awhile to realize the best career that we are suited for, but we will figure it out eventually. There are many of us whose “final answer” as a child wouldn’t match our actual profession when we grew up.

Is there anything wrong with wavering around until we get it right? Absolutely not!

It would be nice if your passion could also be your career. But that isn’t usually the case. However, as you try to figure out what you want to be when you grow up you can continue to pursue your passion. Although it might not be practical as a career it can still have a place in your life. If you like sports you can coach or be a referee. If you like sewing or doing crafts you can take part in a craft show and sell your items. If you love books, you can join a book club. There are groups that meet for just about everything that we are passionate about such as knitting, exercise sessions, cooking, painting classes and the list goes on and on!

As long as we seniors stay “young at heart” we can keep asking ourselves what we want to be when we grow up. I am still trying to figure it out!

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