What do you want to be when you grow up? I remember being asked that question so many times when I was younger – and I remember struggling with that answer. Looking back, I know I answered it several times, but it was never the same answer: teacher, sports medicine doctor, newscaster, singer, and so on. Choosing a career was not something that we really talked about in my family – “get a job” or “be happy” or the joke of “marry rich” were about the extent of the career conversation. Which was great… until I got to college.
Signing up for a college major was nerve wracking. For the first time ever, I had to make a decision about what I would be doing every day for the rest of my life. And it seemed like I was the only one who had never thought about it before.
Learning to Let Go of the “Thought I Would Be” Career
Some of my coaching clients struggle the most with letting go of the career they always envisioned; they were the ones who had one answer to that childhood question and the pursued it vigorously. Unfortunately, the hopes and dreams that you have a child or even young adult, don’t always pan out the way you think they will once you’ve become the true you. Ingrained in so many people is a sense of “have to” connected with this career choice, followed by a feeling of obligation and a fear of quitting. Unfortunately, the only way to create and live within your dream job, is by honoring the current you and letting go of that childhood answer.
- Understand the childhood dream: You need to get a clear sense of WHY you chose that career path when you were a kid. What attracted you to that specific job or field? And you continued to choose it – so figure out what made it interesting enough for you to continue to live that dream.
- List the “shoulds:” We all feel pressure from different people, places, things, and decisions. Part of letting go and going after your now dream job, is to figure out the things that are holding you back. They usually appear as “But I should” in your mind. Knowing what you’re up against, even if it seems somewhat silly, will help you figure out what your true obligations are and what are simply excuses, holding you back.
- Ask your circle: Ask your parents, siblings, and/or close friends – when you envision me living my true life, what profession or career do you see me doing? I’d also recommend asking your parents or siblings: “what did you think I’d be when I grew up?” I recently did this, and the answer was quite funny – my dad didn’t really have an answer (not very shocking based on what I said above). He finally conceded and said a teacher, followed up with “but you have absolutely no patience, so I was never sure.”
- Who is your childhood dream job fulfilling: Go ahead, you’re allowed to ask yourself that tough question and answer it truthfully. Do you feel proud that you followed through on your word? Are your parents thrilled by your profession? Is it stable? Does it remove the scary options out there?
- Be clear: are you tired of your job/career, or are you tired of the obligation, or are you ready to make a change? What’s prompting you to seek something new, now? Get clear with yourself – this will be the baseline for moving forward.
Understanding your motivation behind your “thought I’d be” career, will help guide you through the potential career changes you see ahead of you. Know that as people, we are supposed to grow and change and it’s very rare that we only have one career these days. Change, experiences and learning are key components to satisfaction in your career, and will absolutely trickle over both positively and negatively, if you haven’t recently made (or reconfirmed), your career choice.