As adults, we ask children the age-old question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And often we are met with stereotypical answers of doctors, lawyers, firefighters, or the occasional whimsical child response of robot or princess. We smile and tell them that they would make great “_________” and move on. This is where I believe that we have made our biggest mistake as we look to grow our future leaders and next generation Americans.
Children need guidance from adults and access to resources to make informed decisions. Yet they don’t know where to look and whom to ask to ensure that they are on the right path. Many adults have their own agendas when dispensing advice to their children without considering the multitude of possibilities that await an informed child that is equipped to make strategic leaps in their future adolescent and adult life.
Faryar Shirzad, the Co-Head of Government Affairs at Goldman Sachs, said it perfectly, “There are a lot of cool jobs out there, but you don’t know what they are when you’re 22. Over the course of your career they will reveal themselves to you. Put the building blocks in place so when you see the dream job, you’re prepared to step into it.”
As adults, we need to teach children that the future is not certain and it will change as they change. What they believe is their dream one day could become their nightmare the next. Preparing kids for one specific life path that they decide on as a young adult is almost certain to set the up for failure in difficult economic times where job outlook changes and technology creates obsolete positions. It is not enough to simply say, “Anything is possible! Just put your mind to it.” We leave out the critical steps of planning, contingency planning, and looking for connections between perceived job descriptions and their future applications.
We need to teach our children to look for opportunities and work within those to find application towards their future dreams. A job at McDonald’s may be a step towards an executive level position when a child sees potential in business management. A love of dance may lead a child to a degree in exercise science so that they may work with the ballet and help injured dancers get back on their feet.
There are many ways that people turn their passions into careers and it is not always the path that they imagined. However, without that winding road, they may never have the chance to learn applicable skills and increase their worldview to become future success at yet unknown occupations.
By Kristen Keyes