What do you want to be when you grow up?

This prompt from Post-40 Bloggers appealed to me, perhaps because as a child I was always nonplussed by the question: What do you want to be when you grow up? As an adult, I don’t think it is a particularly helpful question. Some questions, which might be more helpful in leading a young person to choose a suitable career include:-

What are your favourite subjects and your hobbies?

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

My own experience of being asked the question in the title resulted in some memorable exchanges. The first was when someone asked me shortly after a family outing to Bertram Mills’ Circus at Olympia. I replied, “A trapeze artiste”. The horrified expression on my mother’s face said it all! I think she had something to say about it as well.

Later on my ambition was to be a writer. This did not go down well with my family either. A relative, who had been an English teacher, produced her copy of ‘The Young Visiters’ by Daisy Ashford aged nine. Her implied message was: if you can write like this, then perhaps! I was twelve. Other reasons not to pursue a career in writing were that self-employed writing didn’t pay enough to live on and I hadn’t a tough enough skin to be a journalist. It would have been considered impudent of me to voice my opinion that someone, who had a degree in English and was not working outside the home, ought to be writing for fun if for no other reason.

The fact that I had produced a ‘school magazine’ with a friend, including pictures from magazines alongside writing and puzzles we devised ourselves, when we were both ten years old, seemed to have been overlooked.

I was more fortunate than many young people in the careers advice, which was available in the area where I grew up. At the state girls’ school I attended from the age of eleven, there were regular visits from people, who told us about the kinds of things we should take into consideration, when choosing a job or a career. Did we want to work indoors or outside in all weathers? With animals or children? I remember a talk about the General Post Office (GPO) as it was then and the range of employment that the Post Office and telephone service provided and another about the Civil Service. I also received some one-to-one advice.

Unlike someone I met later, who told me she had become a teacher, because the only professional people she had met were teachers, I had also met at least one accountant, architect, civil servant, engineer, probation officer, stock-broker and a few clergy. I was happy to be able to eliminate Vicar from my list of possible careers as at that time women were not allowed to be fully-fledged clergy. (I didn’t consider being a deaconess or a nun.)

I spent many a free lunchtime in the tiny careers room browsing the lists of courses offered by universities all over England. The A-levels required for each were set out. The range of choice was bewildering.

After making various decisions and gaining some qualifications, I ended up with a challenging job, where some writing was required. I had made most of my decisions before someone made me aware that God is able to guide us to make good decisions if we ask. (Sometimes we can be guided without being aware of it.)

It is only since I left paid employment that I have been free to pursue my own interests in writing. The lack of encouragement from my family and the fact that I did not gain as good grades at O-level in English as in most other subjects has not helped my confidence in writing-related matters. My next step ought to be to move on from being a blogger to being an author. Then I might consider myself properly grown-up!

Looking back over my experience, I would advise any young person to consider the interests they had by the age of ten, twelve or (at the latest) before they have to choose between subjects for examinations. Which careers are related to those interests? Enjoyable paid work is surely best for the individual and society.

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