Many questions accompany us through our lives. However, the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is possibly one of the most common. It is constantly asked by parents, teachers, friends, relatives, and everyone around you. The question usually first pops up in preschool, when you’re asked to fill out a page in someone’s friends-book and is present all throughout childhood and your teenage years. Although now, as a student, conversations about your plans are even more present and can put pressure on you.
This is a very personal topic, and everyone falls on a different place on the spectrum. However, on each the end of said spectrum, there are two types of people: those who have known since preschool what they want to do later in life, and those who have no idea and never had one. Congratulations, if you belong to the first group and already have professional goals and a so called dream job – you probably don’t need to continue reading this. But what if you are one of the latter and have nothing specific in mind? What if you just live life as it comes and enjoy every day? Is that a bad thing? Should you already have a 5, 10, or even 15-year plan for your life?
The bad news: Most of the time, you can’t force yourself to find a specific career or professional goal, even if you really try. And even if you have a vague idea of what job might fit, no one can guarantee if it’s the right one for you. Often parents and older siblings are sorts of guides or role models in this area of life, but ultimately it comes down to the individual. The topic can weigh heavily on your shoulders, as it can seem like everyone has their life figured out, knows where to go, what to accomplish and when to do so.
The good news, the silver lining, a way of dealing with such pressure: The older you get, the more you realize that the just described phenomenon of “knowing what to do” barely exists. Everyone, including your parents and every role model you’ve ever had, is still figuring things out, taking risks and chances without knowing the outcome or being sure it was “the right decision” – whatever that may be. There is no right or wrong and everyone goes at their own pace.
So remember, even if people keep asking you about your future plans, most of them don’t care about your answer because it has no impact on their lives. 99% of the time, they will congratulate you and say something along the lines of, “Oh wow, that’s so cool! I’m sure that’s a perfect fit for you!”. But they don’t know that. Nobody knows that. Not even you. And to answer the question about 5, 10, or even 15-year plans: They can be helpful, and it doesn’t hurt to make plans. However, you almost certainly won’t stick to them, as you can’t predict what’s waiting for you. Life is about trying different things, and nothing, especially not a career, is going to be what you thought it would be. There’s no shame in answering this big question with “I don’t know yet.” – even though some may be surprised. So don’t stress and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Everything will work itself out sooner or later.