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What do I want to be when I grow up?

career direction tips Sep 02, 2022

Have you seen the latest Truist commercials? They’re brilliant! Of all the videos that I’ve seen that accurately portray the idea, "What do I want to be when I grow up?", these are the closest ones to match reality.

I have to admit, I believe the way careers are introduced to us as children are really confusing. 

I remember visiting my guidance counselor in middle school and seeing a poster of children dressed as different vocations such as a firefighter, doctor, teacher, cook, and so forth.

I also recall being asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" for which I would answer "teacher" because providing an answer, even though I didn’t know if it was true, would stop the conversation from going further.

I remember thinking this was a strange question because it confused me that I would 'be my job' instead of just 'being me' — we do our vocations but we aren't our vocations. 

While some people are lucky to know what they want to pursue when they grow up, that's not the reality for a majority of us.

The question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" and that poster with kids dressed as different vocations, sets up the expectation that we should know the answer and that we should pursue only one career based on it. When the reality is that our social systems should be helping us identify what we do well.

Many of us did NOT grow up wishing to pursue data science, software development, consulting, or product management because children think in absolutes, not nuances. As children, we could not grasp what people do in these career fields because it’s not what we witnessed day-to-day (or because these careers didn’t even exist).  

So going back to the Truist commercial, what it brilliantly conveys is that our vocations can be an extension of the natural gifts we were born with and they can be applied to many career options (just as the example of Tim being born to care and give the best advice, is now a financial advisor with Truist).

For the most part, our career direction is not going to be straightforward like, "You're natural gifts is as a teacher, so you should become a teacher." 

It will more likely look like, "Your natural gift is for teaching and to navigate the realities of the job market, you might choose to explore careers in instructional design and training and development."

When you focus on what comes naturally to you, you'll find multiple career or business options that can meet your needs, use your innate gifts, and allow you to feel a sense of fulfillment — not just one option.

You've got this!

Happy Labor Day Weekend,


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