Michaels: I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up, and that’s okay

"If you’re contemplating a change of pace, keep in mind that you’re not alone. As this data shows, many people change career paths over time. " Graphic / Bunny Beyer

Growing up, we’re often asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” To which we often respond with silly things like an astronaut, a princess, or the president. Or, we have attainable career answers that you may or may not have ended up going for, like a veterinarian, a doctor, or an actor. 

The thing about this question is that eventually, it becomes redundant, and it doesn’t stop when we’re little either. It is a constant question throughout life, even as we’re just learning what we actually want to do, or at least what we think we want to do. We get to the college-age level and pick a path to follow and study, or maybe you’re unlike college students and step straight into the workforce after high school.

Either way, whatever you’ve chosen, you have set yourself on a path to have a career of some sort. 

But what happens when you realize you don’t enjoy the work you are doing anymore? Or do you have a plethora of passions and you’re struggling to choose one to follow? 

As a student, you have a few years to change your field of study and no one bats an eye. It’s common to realize you aren’t enjoying your main field of study and making a quick switch. But, when it comes to stepping into the workforce is that notion of making a quick swap of what you do for a living still acceptable?  

According to a study by the University of Queensland, “research shows most people will change careers at least once in their lives. In fact, the average person tends to go through 3-7 careers before they retire, and this number may be more like 5-7 for the current and upcoming generations of workers.” 

If you’re contemplating a change of pace, keep in mind that you’re not alone. As this data shows, many people change career paths over time. 

Despite this, as college comes to an end, professors, families, and friends may be expecting you to step into the world of your major. Families and friends bring back up the existential question of “what do you want to be when you grow up?” But instead, it’s phrased as “Where are you going next?” Professors reach out and beg you to make meetings with them to help you find internships and opportunities, as they want you to succeed. If you’re questioning everything, panic sets in for every one of these scenarios as you realize you don’t know how to answer.  You worry you’ll disappoint your professors and family if you don’t start immediately for a path in your field.  

Currently, I am having this dilemma myself. I have studied TV production and journalism for eight years and I have an immense passion for this field, but over time I have realized there are other things I might want to do. As I am a month away from graduating, I am utterly lost. 

I want to get a master’s in business because I feel like that would be good to have and I actually love to learn new things. I also have a passion for teaching and often have moments of wanting to follow that as a career. I can go on and on with all the different things I want or could do, but at the end of the day, I don’t think I actually need to worry so much. 

Taking job opportunities after college can set you on courses you’d never expect, so if you’re unsure of where to go, don’t stress. Apply to jobs and take chances, if you hate where you start, go work somewhere else. We have one life, don’t stay to work somewhere you’re miserable (unless the money is worth your misery.)

Granted, there may always be someone who will look down on you, or suggest that it is best you stay with your first career path. There will always be someone in your corner supporting you, and if not, be in your own corner. Make the decisions that are best for you. 

If you don’t trust that a risky career choice you take a jump into will pay off, then look to others who did. Many esteemed people with famous careers or successful businesses did not start at the top. 

Ellen Degeneres, who eventually went on to host her own very successful talk show, worked as a paralegal before getting into the entertainment industry. 

Before acting, winning Grammys, Emmys, and Oscars, Whoopi Goldberg worked in a funeral home as a makeup artist for the deceased; which is a crazy jump to take. 

Even Pope Francis, who leads the entire Catholic Church as the Bishop of Rome and sovereign of the Vatican City, was once a nightclub bouncer and a janitor before training to become a chemist.

For me, I have worked in restaurants since 16 and I thoroughly enjoy working in this industry. Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I took my master’s and used it to open a restaurant. Or maybe create a journalism company. The opportunities are quite literally endless at the moment. 

And if you want a reason to simply not worry if a career option doesn’t work out, understand one thing: you will find your place if you never give up trying for yourself. After all, if you love what you do, it’s not work, it’s passion. 

Walt Disney used to work for a newspaper. That’s right, the man who created a place for children’s dreams to come true had his start as a journalist. And “apparently, the world-famous animator and producer Walt Disney himself experienced rejection as he was fired from being a newspaper editor because ‘he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.’” Which is crazy– but it makes sense.

Imagine being Walt Disney and told you lack imagination, when he made imaginations come to life. My point is, that you may fail at careers or feel you don’t fit at a job you studied for years. Maybe you’ll even be given the worst and most painful criticisms of your life somewhere. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter, there are always other options to try out, maybe one that could make you perpetually happier and wealthier all at once. 

It’s realistic to assume that you won’t have your dream job immediately after graduation, but you have to start somewhere. And maybe you’ll have to start at the bottom a few different times, changing your mind and taking some chances. Your true dream job may not even be a thought in your mind at the moment, but the different career choices you make will take you there.

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