What Do I Want To Be When I Grow Up?
Updated: Dec 10, 2019
It seems that in every career-oriented conversation I have with young professionals, we come to a point where we have to tackle the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?”. The question often takes different forms (who do you want to be, where do you want to be, what does success look like for you), but ultimately, it all comes down to the picture of their future.
I love it when I get to this question, because to me, that means it’s time to get down to business. As young professionals, you have lived your career up to this point going through the motions:
Associate position? Check.
Senior Associate position? Check.
You get the idea. However, eventually there comes a point when that path isn’t quite so clear. You either realize that the next step on that path is not of interest to you, or worse – there is no next step on this path. Getting to that point is a bit of a wake up call for many.
Looking up and realizing no “expected” path has been laid out before you can be terrifying. But it can also be a huge opportunity, and possibly the first one you’ve had in your life to make your own career decision. It is time to decide what you’re going to do next. Ready, set, go. Oh wait – not that easy? Unfortunately, for most of us, it isn’t.
This is where that big question comes in. What do you want to be when you grow up? The truth of the matter is that you cannot figure out what your next step is without knowing where you’re trying to go. You can always take another step that is easy and right in front of you, which is the easy answer, but if you want to take a step in the right direction, you have to know where you’re going. Seems simple when I put it like that, right? If it were so simple, there wouldn’t be so many people struggling with what to do next, and believe me - there are a lot of people struggling to figure out their next steps.
If you find yourself in this boat, the “I feel stuck - I don’t know where to go from here” boat (terrible name for a boat, by the way - maybe “Stuck at Sea” or “Naut Seaing Things Clearly” instead?), here is what I suggest: Spend some time thinking about the future. Yes, really. But I mean REALLY thinking about the future, and maybe in a different way from how you have thought about it in the past.
I always hated the question “Where do you see yourself in five/ten years?”, because I could never answer it. Because the career I was in was not the right fit for me, and I could never see a future in it for me, and I found it impossible to answer that question. I started making up answers “Oh, I see myself as a CFO in five years!”, because I felt like I should have some sort of an answer. It wasn’t until I thought about my future differently, and from a different perspective, that I was FINALLY able to answer that God forsaken question.
My suggestion is to stop thinking about your future solely from the perspective of your job, and start thinking about all of the life components that really matter to you, and how to make your career serve to get you to THAT future. What are the elements that you MUST have in your future? These do not need to be work specific elements, but they certainly can be. What kind of life do you want to live? How do you want to work? Who do you want to work with? Do you have a minimum salary you need to sustain your lifestyle needs? Where do you want to live? Do you want to work for yourself or prefer to work for someone else? Ask yourself all of these questions (and more!) to give yourself a full and clear picture of where you want to go.
Once you have more clarity on your end goal, it’s time to ask yourself: Is the next step you’re contemplating helping you get where you want to go, doing nothing for you, or worst of all, decreasing your odds of accomplishing your end goal?