What do you want to be when you grow up?

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Asking a kid in elementary school this question is so much fun. A prince, a firefighter, Blaze the Monstertruck or their favorite teacher. They all have a clear idea of what they want to be and all those kids seem to dream big. But somehow those dreams and more importantly the idea that you can achieve anything fades over the years.

The horror

When I ask a student in their exam year what they wanted to be when they grow up, I always get a meekly smile. Almost like an apology. They hate the question. Refer to it as the horror. But I keep asking them to go back to that simple and happy time in which they could achieve anything as long as they set their mind to it. Why? Because there is a basic need in the answer to that question.

The Monster Truck

My kid (age 4) wants to be a monster truck at the moment. I get that. He knows Blaze from a TV show and Blaze is quite fun. To quote my son “He has friends and a lot of animals and gets to go everywhere”. For me as a guidance counselor that is a clear need. The need to be loved and to explore. So when I ask my exam students the horror question, I always give them the task to explore why. What appeals to you in that job? Why is or isn’t it realistic? What could be the underlying motive for wanting to be just that?

The Princess

A student once told me she always wanted to be a princess. That didn’t sound like a solid career choice to me, and frankly, I didn’t know what vocation I could advise her, to win over a prince. What made her want to be a princess, however, was a solid career choice. She liked the clothes, the fashion, the travel. Meeting new people, be a role model and see the world. So after some soul searching, she concluded that she wanted to work in the fashion industry. That way she could have all the aspects of being a princess without the need of a prince.

Step by step

Knowing what you want to be isn’t easy. It is a step by step process. And tell you what, once you figured it out, graduated high school and step into the big bold world, you need to choose again. And again, and again. That is why knowing what you want to be isn’t the big question. The big question is how you are going to figure that out!

© 2017, published first on Kers & Kers. In 2019 bijgewerkt en geactualiseerd voor De Wereld Van LOB.

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