When I Grow Up…

I wanted to be a cowboy!

I was asked to answer the question:  What do I wish I knew before I started working?  Here’s my response…

We’ve all spoken and heard the words.  “When I grow up, I want to be a cowboy, an astronaut, veterinarian, doctor, fireman, etc.”  As I grew up, I had many friends that wanted to be a marine biologist.  In our minds, that was someone who worked with dolphins, exploring the deep seas, and helping loveable creatures like penguins, and killer whales (Free Willy was a big movie in my day – Flipper was still in reruns).

The funny thing is, hardly any of us ended up doing what it was that we were so set on as a child.  One friend that I grew up with did end up becoming a marine biologist, helping companies reduce their environmental footprint on streams, rivers, and the oceans.

That brings me to a very good point.  We don’t always end up doing what we think we’ll do in our careers.  This is one of the “if I knew then what I know now” examples that truly shows how people change over time, whether it’s by choice or not.  What do I wish I would have known about the real world before I started working?  I wish I’d known that my major applied to so many DIFFERENT fields, not just the obvious jobs.  A colleague and good friend, Cindy Billington, said it best in this:


So, are you thinking about what you want to DO?  Most students have no idea what that degree in Business Administration, Business Management or Communication actually means as it relates to the real world.  No one is hiring for a Business Administrator or Communicator.  Instead, they’re hiring people with the skills and experience gained through real-world implementation of what you learned in college.

Here are a few tips for you as you’re thinking about selecting your major and some tips that relate directly to your chosen field:

Work with an academic advisor.  This is one of the perks to being a student – you have someone dedicated to your success!  As a freshman, even sophomore, you may not know exactly what your focused major will be.  That’s ok.  Use this time to get the basics out of the way.  I’d encourage you to take a few classes that are outside of the norm.  You might just find something you’re interested that you wouldn’t have discovered otherwise.  Ask your advisor what they think would be good for you.

Research the fields of study.  Know what it takes to be a doctor, lawyer, even marine biologist.  I found out very quickly that while the field of science was attractive, I simply wasn’t as excited about the math that it required.  Plus, I get squeamish at the sight of blood!  But, I dabbled in a class or two, and actually found something I was interested in pursuing: Communication and Leadership.  With the help of some very supportive teachers and family, I’m working in a field that I love to be in every day.

Intern, job shadow, and conduct informational interviews!  Internships are the best way to take a career for a test drive.  These days, internships are way more than getting coffee and picking up dry-cleaning.   Interns have opportunities that range from projects that truly impact the business’ bottom line to presentations to the corporation’s executive leaders.  If you can’t officially take part in an internship, try job shadowing.  Ask someone who is in a job that you’re interested in if you could sit in with them for “a day in the life of” experience.  Or, you could ask for an informational interview.  Info interviews huge opportunities that many people simply overlook.  Take the time to ask, “do you have 30 minutes to discuss your job over coffee?”  You buy – what you gain will be more valuable than that $4 cup of Starbucks.

Find your passion.  This may not happen overnight.  It took me several years (out of college) to actually find what I’m most passionate about.  It all goes back to Cindy’s advice above – it’s not what you want to BE, it’s about what you want to DO.  If you’re not really passionate about what you do, the company you work for, or the people you work with, what’s keeping you there?  As the economy bounces back, you may find yourself jumping ship if passion isn’t something that drives you.

This isn’t an exclusive list of to-do’s as you look to find that perfect major, ideal job and career that you’re truly passionate about.  Please feel free to add to the list by commenting on this post below.  I’m certainly open to feedback and look forward to growing with you as you search (and find) the career of your dreams!


4 thoughts on “When I Grow Up…

  1. These are great suggestions for people graduating from college. If you are an adult trying to change careers, finding your passion is a way of following a new career path as well. In Illinois we have a tool on our http://www.illinoisworknet.com system that allows people in career flux to explore their skills and knowledge to find a new career path. It might not be a bad idea for high school seniors to pursue the same information. BUT, we all know that most of the time what we started out doing right after high school or college morphs and blossoms into many things. Knowing your options is always useful.


    1. Thanks Dee. I appreciate the comment and resource for those more experienced workers. Preparation is key. I saw a phenomenal resume the other day. Guess what? It wasn’t from someone with 10-15 years of experience. It wasn’t even from someone who was graduating college. It was from a high school senior!! I printed it out for my co-workers to see and quickly responded to the young man about his preparation. This guy was impressive and still has so much potential ahead of him.

      So, that brings me to my challenge: How can we better prepare job seekers of all kinds? High school preparation is needed. If they have that, then they’ll have a great advantage in college and in the job market. I’m looking forward to working to make this happen!


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