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What should you do if you don't know what you want to be when you grow up?

Greetings! I'm Ms. Tipton at the International Community School. My 3rd graders have a few questions and I'd like to share your advice with them. Thanks in advance!

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Gloria’s Answer

On my goodness, what a great adventure you have in front of you. It is okay that you do not know yet what you want to do when you grow up. There is so much to do and you want to be sure to check out a lot of options before you decide. I actually didn't know what I wanted to until I was in college! That's a long time for you.

You can start getting ready for your future in a couple of ways: work hard in school in every subject, ask for help when the work gets hard, try again when you have trouble with something. You do not have to know everything about everything, but you should know something about a lot of things. You want to make sure that you learn what you do well and what you love to do. I learned in second grade that I liked to tell stories. But guess what? I was terrible at spelling. That was hard for me, because spelling is important to story telling. Am I a story teller today? Yes. I am an Instructional Designer, which is a person who creates training for people to either teach in person or access online. I write every day, just like I always wanted to when I was 7. But I had to work really hard on my spelling and then my writing. It was not always easy. Sometimes people didn't like my stories and I had to work on making them better. I wrote as often as possible on a wide variety of subjects until I found a place where my writing was good enough for a job and still made me happy. It took a long time.

You should have a wide variety of friends who think differently than you so you can learn from them. You can learn a lot from friends that you just can't learn in a classroom. Join groups where you can learn different things, like a sports team or the scouts. Be a teacher too. If you are good at something, teach someone else so that they can be good too. You can teach small things, like teach a friend how to be nice to her brother or the right away to put away your school supplies at the end of the day. You can even teach your parents about what you learned in school today.
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Andrea’s Answer

I think most people do not know what they want to do even when they graduate from college. I would talk to people about what they do for a living and then start to see what sounds interesting to you. You should also think about what you are good at and what comes naturally to you that is easy for you.

I always liked math and it was easier for me than English or history. Considering that I got a degree in computer science since it is based on math and logic. That opened doors for me in different areas for jobs. I did not know what I wanted to do for a while either so don't worry. You can also change your mind and do something different even after working a few years. There are many options out there for you.

Andrea recommends the following next steps:

Talk to your parents friends about what they do.
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Pablo’s Answer

Great question!

Here's a little secret for you.... In a quote from Baz Luhrmann: "“The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t"... and that is OK.

You have great advice here from others (and I'm sure you'll get more). I would say "work hard" in any job you have and, if you don't get a job doing what you're passionate about, follow your passion as a hobby... and then turn it into your job.

I've re-invented myself a couple of times in my career and it's been a fun experience for me. Like Gloria Ortiz said, "what a great adventure you have in front of you". At my last job, I identified a need the company had (nobody *had* this job, because it didn't exist), so I just decided to own it and start doing it as time allowed and I worked hard at it and it became my full time job!

So, go after what you want, and work hard at it, and believe that it will work out in the end.

Kudos to you, Ms. Tipton at the International Community School, for extending the reach of these questions to the CV community!

Pablo recommends the following next steps:

Read the advice others shared with you here
Bring honor to every job you do by doing it right and working hard at it
Follow your passions
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Sirita’s Answer

This is such a great question! First, you should know it is OK to not know what you want to be right now (some adults are still trying to figure it out too!). One way to help you figure it out is to always try new things! You never know if you like something until you try, right? So while you are in school make sure you study hard and pay attention to the subjects that you like a lot and the subjects you may find difficult. At school join clubs, sports teams and/or participate in different events that are offered. After school activities and camps may also help give you a different perspective. You can also explore professions by reading books about different careers and different cultures. Ask your parents to help you find documentaries or movies about different people/careers that interest you too.

In high school my favorite subject was history and sociology classes so when I went to college I decided to get my degree in Political Science with a minor in Communications. After taking those classes I realized I didn't really want a Political Science degree so I switched to communications because I loved communicating with people. But since a degree in communications can be used for so many jobs a News Anchor, Public Relations leader, Lawyer, Teacher... I decided I needed some help picking a more specific career. So I went to the career services office at my college and took a career assessment. Based on how I answered the questions it provided me with a few different career options one of which was a Human Resources Manager. HR Managers give people jobs, train them, make sure they are happy at work and sometimes when people aren't being good employees they fire them too. I liked the sound of the job description so I decided to go get an internship to see if I was truly interested. An internship is when you have a chance to test out the job by working part-time for free or for a small amount of money (usually during the summer). Internships are really important so you should try to get one when your in High School and College. It is how you find out what you like about the job or even better what you don't like so you can change your mind if you need to. I had 4 different HR internships before I decided I wanted to continue my education to get a Masters Degree in HR.

One of the most wonderful things about life is that YOU have the power to decide your own path. And as you try out new things you may change your mind but depending on the change it may make life harder or take you down a longer road. For example, If you want to be a Biologist then decide to be a Doctor you can probably make that change quickly but if you want to be a teacher then change your mind and want to be a Chemical Engineer that change may require a lot more classes and time. But if you are doing what you love then it will be worth it! You can even mix it up and be a educator that teaches Chemical Engineering.

In Summary, Try New Things, Don't be afraid of hardwork and do what makes you happy! Keep those things in mind and you will figure it out in no time.
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Sylvia’s Answer

Most people don't know what they want to do when they grow up, even after they're grown up! People's passions change and evolve, so the exciting thing is that you'll likely keep answering that question as you get older and change directions. My two cents is to stay curious, pursue multiple passions, work hard at them, and sometimes get creative. If you have certain interests or strengths, see if you can talk to people who work in those jobs or see if you can get some experience, either through volunteering, internships, taking classes, shadowing someone, or getting a job. There are a lot of ways to try something out and see if you enjoy it, and once you've worked hard at it and pursued that path for a while, be open to changing your opinion or finding creative ways to pursue multiple passions. And remember, that your day job doesn't have to be the only way you pursue your interests - volunteering and joining groups are options as well!
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Alton’s Answer

It’s perfectly normal not to know what you want to do right away. The best thing you can do is get information about different jobs and careers and see how they align with your interests. There are so many various career fields to choose from that all of us can find something that’s rewarding. When I started college, I didn’t have a major because I wasn’t sure what career field I wanted to enter. One of my classes as a freshman was an exploratory course about different career fields. The best thing about that class was it forced me to talk to many different people around me (parents, professors, friends of my parents, etc.), and I learned so much about various careers. The father of one of my friends worked in Human Resources, a field I didn’t know anything about at the time, and I became very interested in learning more. After an informational interview with him, I decided to research the field more in-depth, and it turned out to be what I wanted to pursue. I declared it as my major, and I’ve been working in the field ever since!
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Terri’s Answer

It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to be as an adult. I found that curiosity was my friend. As I met people or talked to my parent's friends, I asked lots of questions. This showed me that it's not always easy to figure out what you want to be as an adult, and it taught me that there are multiple paths that can be taken to enter and be successful in a career.

Key questions to ask adults:
What do you do for a living?
What did you study in college?
Did you always know that you wanted to do as an adult?

It's also important to know what you like to do, which subjects do you enjoy more than others. Once you have decided which subject you like best, I suggest a google search to find out the different majors that you can study in college, as well as the kinds of jobs that are available.

When I went to college, I wanted to be a financial advisor for professional athletes. I majored in Business - Finance, and because of the internships that I received during college in insurance, I made a decision to start my career for an insurance company as an auditor. My career in insurance has lasted many years and has taken several different paths, and though I often think back to what I thought I wanted to do as an adult, I am happy with the decision that I made to work for an insurance company.

So, it's ok if you don't know what you want to do when you grow up. The truth is, most people don't know what they want to do either. It takes work but you'll figure out what you want to do.
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Christine’s Answer

It is wonderful that you are beginning to think about your career.
You should talk to the adults you know about what they do. You should take advantage of any Career Exploration events at school. Get involved in school extracurricular activities . All will add to your options and will help you to consider many fields. Stay open to ideas. Pay Atty to what subjects you do well in and interest you the most.
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Greg’s Answer

First of all, it's ok to not know what you want to do when you grow up. There is no age by which we have to know. There is no right answer, only a right path for you. Some people do many things when they grow up. Some people focus on one thing. My advice is to try as many things as you can ( food, classes, sports, music, etc.). In other words, have an open mind to listening, looking, and trying new things. Learn as much as you can along the way. Talk to people, but also listen to yourself. What things do you find interesting? Surround yourself with good, positive, kind people. Trust your instincts. If something doesn't feel right for you, it's probably not.
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Robert’s Answer

Wow; thinking about what you want to do in 3rd grade! I remember so many things I thought I wanted to be when I was your age, astronaut, pilot, designer; fire fighter.... the list is long. As I continued through school, I took career aptitude tests from my guidance counselor to see what I might be good at; a forest fire lookout; engineer; and a few other things gave me things to research to see if I really might like that.

Sirita above said it best! Find out what you like to do, what is fun for you as an individual, then find a job that does some of that at least. Talk to people about what they do for a career, why they do it and like it, what does it feel like to do this. Your path will probably change several times before you really figure out what you want to do. Even then, your choice is not set in stone forever, you can grow into other jobs as you learn more. I did not really know wheat I wanted to do until I was 50. I am a program manager which uses many business areas and skills ( like planning schedules, buying parts, negotiating contracts, and helping teams develop new products), that I learned while I was figuring out who I am, what really motivates me and what I find fun.

Most of all, do every job because you enjoy it and want to learn from it to get where you think you want to end up , don't do it because it pays better than what you love to do, as this pursuit leads to emotional unrest in yourself.
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Robert’s Answer

Wow; thinking about what you want to do in 3rd grade! I remember so many things I thought I wanted to be when I was your age, astronaut, pilot, designer; fire fighter.... the list is long. As I continued through school, I took career aptitude tests from my guidance counselor to see what I might be good at; a forest fire lookout; engineer; and a few other things gave me things to research to see if I really might like that.

Sirita above said it best! Find out what you like to do, what is fun for you as an individual, then find a job that does some of that at least. Talk to people about what they do for a career, why they do it and like it, what does it feel like to do this. Your path will probably change several times before you really figure out what you want to do. Even then, your choice is not set in stone forever, you can grow into other jobs as you learn more. I did not really know wheat I wanted to do until I was 50. I am a program manager which uses many business areas and skills ( like planning schedules, buying parts, negotiating contracts, and helping teams develop new products), that I learned while I was figuring out who I am, what really motivates me and what I find fun.

Most of all, do every job because you enjoy it and want to learn from it to get where you think you want to end up , don't do it because it pays better than what you love to do, as this pursuit leads to emotional unrest in yourself.
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Christine’s Answer

It is wonderful that you are beginning to think about your career.
You should talk to the adults you know about what they do. You should take advantage of any Career Exploration events at school. Get involved in school extracurricular activities . All will add to your options and will help you to consider many fields. Stay open to ideas. Pay attention to what subjects you do well in and interest you the most.
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