This summer, I repeatedly found myself thinking back to eighth grade when I was asked the reverse of your typical career question. It was my first time actually researching different career paths, and one of my favorite teachers liked to look at things from a different angle.
She asked everyone in the class full of preteens, “what do you not want to be when you grow up?”
When it was my turn to speak, I didn’t even hesitate.
“I could never be a businesswoman,” I said. “I can’t sit at a desk all day.”
Your girl was 14 at the time. Fast forward to 21 and guess what I spent my summer internship doing? Working for a company. Doing business. And yes, chillin’ in my cubicle (which had a spinney chair and really wasn’t half bad).
And guess what? I enjoyed my internship. There’s a plot twist for 14-year-old me.
Now that I’m on my final lap of college, there are a handful of careers I could see myself pursuing, but quite honestly, I’m not 100% sure about what I want to do next with my hair, let alone the rest of my life. And the plans I’ve made for myself over the last decade and a half have been under constant editing. So many drafts and revisions let me tell ya.
At three, I wanted to be a leprechaun…seriously.
At five, a mailman.
At nine, a pop star. (My parents have Britney to thank for that one.)
At 13, a professional dancer.
At 15, a fashion designer.
And at 19, I wanted to work for a fashion magazine.
Right now I really dig writing, but I also like the fashion and retail industry. I could dabble in business, but I also love everything that has to do with Spanish.
I think there’s something to be said about the pressure many of us young people often feel to map out our future careers; to have one end goal, one path in life, and stick to it. So I’m going to say the one thing every guidance counselor would probably smack me upside the head for saying.
You don’t have to know what you want you to do for the rest of your life right now.
Whether you’re a freshman in college or a senior, it’s unlikely that you know exactly how you’ll spend the next umpteen years of your life. You might go into marketing at one company, fall in love with it, and never leave. That’s great. You might start out as a journalist only to discover that you actually really want to get your teacher’s license and work with kids. That’s great too.
Now I’m not saying everyone should just throw in the towel, study whatever, and wait for a headhunter to show up on the front stoop with a fabulous job on a silver platter. But I am saying that one thing to keep in mind is that your dreams may change as you get older. I think that applies just as much from fourth grade to 16th grade, as it does from age 25 to age 40. You change as you grow up, and your thoughts and priorities change too. So don’t worry too much about concocting an immaculate 20-year plan because girlfriend, you just might damn well change your mind. And if my first dream job of leprechaun-ery doesn’t help get that point across, I’m not really sure what will.
Just like you may have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince, you may have to work in several different fields/positions/environments to find your niche. Sometimes working a few jobs you don’t love turns out to be the best way to figure out what you do love. And hey, you know what? That’s totally okay.
Yes, it’s good to have a general idea about what you might like to do with your life. And yes, it’s important to plan for how you’ll go about landing your first job. But you don’t have to stick yourself in a box -whether you’re leaning towards business or lion taming- and stay in it your whole life.
That’s the beauty of being an adult. You have the power to change your mind.
Image via Anna Thetard