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How many of us were asked this question growing up: What do you want to be when you grow up?
I was having a conversation with a friend last weekend, where this topic came up. We spoke about how we answered this question as children, and compared that to what we do today.
To be honest, I hated that question, even at five years old! And of course, today that question has morphed into “what do you do?”
I always felt that there was a right answer that was expected of me, but that was not my answer. I always felt the pressure to answer with something conventional like, doctor/lawyer/nurse/teacher etc., as is the expectation in many South Asian families.
As we grow up, we make find new opportunities, and make decisions about how we want to identify professionally.
We don’t know what we don’t know, until we grow up.
So many jobs that are around today, didn’t even exist when I was a child. Social media, e-commerce, and many new technologies, have only recently become a viable option to make money.
At the pace at which technology is growing, there will be new careers and jobs in the next ten years, which may seem inconceivable today!
We are not just our work. We grow up multi-faceted.
The question forces one to think about themselves in terms of work. If you’re at a dinner party or meeting new people, the first question is always “what do you do?” We obsess over defining people in terms of our work and productivity.
What we should ask instead
I think we should ask children (and adults) different questions.
We should ask them what they feel passionate about, what do they enjoy reading, what would they do if they had unlimited money in the world?
We don’t get to these questions until we intimately get to know people, and even when we do, we often don’t ask these questions.
Next time I meet new people, I want to be asked something challenging, something that shows me, that the person on the other end really wants to get to know me.
What do you think? Do you think that the focus on our work lives is the right approach?
Let me know in the comments below.