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Monday, 3 December 2012

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Every year thousand (more likely hundreds of thousands!) of teenagers sit down with a parent, or a teacher, or a school counselor, and try to figure out what courses to take the next year.  And these students are asked "What do you want to be when you grow up?"  A few lucky children might actually have an answer but most have no clue.

So what is a student (or parent) to do?  The key is to keep as many doors open as possible.  Take classes that will lead to many opportunities.  If there is really no direction or preferred subject then try a few of these simple tasks.

Without thinking too much, quickly write down three things that you would like to achieve in life.  There are no limits except that you have to stay a human and probably live on Earth, although that is becoming unnecessary.  Then write down three things you would get if you could have anything in the world.  No restrictions. Remember these tasks have nothing to do with reality or being practical.  This is pure fantasy land.  Next, three things you would like to learn right now.  And lastly, three people, living or dead, whom you would like to meet.

Now take your lists and find common factors.  With the achievements: are they solitary or in a team?  Do they require physical skill, mental skill, both?  Are they competitive, collaborative, or a combination?  With the things: what is the appeal of each?  Do they represent a certain lifestyle?  Is that a life based on security (house, family) or adventure (fast car, world trip) or freedom (island holiday)?  For learning: are they hidden passions?  Would they take you somewhere else?  And people to meet: why did you choose them?  What do they represent that you admire?

All of these, particularly if done over and over with no repetitions allowed, will start to show you what you would like to do.  The trick is to take these clues, explore possibilities that lie in this direction, and make this into a viable career.  If you are still wandering, then head in a direction that has a secure future, while keeping your eyes open to other opportunities.  Luck is being open to opportunity combined with the courage to go for it.

So, what courses do you take?  Mathematics, because almost every career out there needs you to be able to do consecutive steps with precision.  English, because communication skills are vital.  The best idea in the world is useless if you can't communicate it to someone else.  History teaches us our place in the world.  How we got to where we are and why others might be in a different place.  And science is crucial to understand and examine everything around us.  A second language opens up huge vistas of understanding our global community.  The words of any language reflect the priorities of that people.  Take a broad spectrum, do your absolute best, and keep those eyes open.  You will be amazed at what lies out there.

And don't worry about what you will be when you grow up.  You'll find out when you get there.

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