This seems to be a reoccurring question; when you are little and can be anything you imagine, as you get to high school when you are choosing which subjects to study, when you finish high school and need to decide your next path, when you finish university – where will you start your career. As time goes on more and more of your life choices depend on how you answer this question. Believe me as you enter your 20’s and ask yourself this question frequently, and have others constantly asking, it starts to sound bewildering.
Growing up I always thought the pathway was: complete high school, attend university & gain a degree, get a job in the field you studied and build a career in that line of work. When I finished high school that was a daunting thought – I have to choose right now what job I want to do for the rest of my life! Of course I went with my favourite subject at high school – PE. As I was an avid sports player throughout high school it just seemed a natural path to follow. However after two years of studying a Sports and Exercise Science degree I was asking everyone in my class what they wanted to do when they finished. Majority of my classmates said “become a PE teacher” or “become a personal trainer”. As I was still quite young and a little naïve my thinking was, “well that doesn’t sound like me for the rest of my life”. I didn’t realise that just because most people wanted to follow two main careers, there was a lot more available using this degree. Unfortunately as I came to that conclusion I withdrew from my degree with only one year to go, and went to work in hospitality while I figured out what my new career path would be. Now what do I want to be when I grow up?
Well after 5 years of working in various roles in hospitality I decided waitressing and bartending were not the career paths that I wanted. One of my waitressing roles expanded into assisting with planning weddings and functions. I loved the events planning side of this role and decided now that this could be a career I would really enjoy. At the time I was looking for fulltime jobs and it was a requirement to have a degree before anyone would consider hiring you. As I was just shy of completing my sports degree I chose to go back to university and do a degree in what I now enjoyed – event management.
At the time the only degree at Waikato University that offered any event management papers was the Bachelor of Communications, so naturally this is what I chose to study.
As I was in the last months of completing my degree majoring in marketing and public relations I again asked myself “what do I want to be when I grow up?” Now I have a degree what will I do with it? What career does this mean for me? Still thinking that your degree will lead to a career in the industry of what you studied.
Well after temping full time for a variety of businesses for three months, and a large amount of interviews for marketing jobs, I weighed up my options again. If I was to follow what I thought was the right path – working in the industry I studied – I would have to get a marketing job in Auckland. This meant changing my whole life just to get a job. I could potentially get paid a higher starting salary than what was on offer in Hamilton, however that would mean having a higher cost of living and leave all my friends and the lifestyle I was used to in Hamilton behind.
Again the question came up “what do I want to be when I grow up?” After asking yourself this question multiple times in a few years it starts to get scary when you still haven’t figured it out. It gets harder when your family starts asking year after year, reminding you you’re getting older and won’t have the same job opportunities much longer.
I am turning 27 this year and have finally come to terms with the fact that it is okay to not know what you want to be when you grow up. I now have a full-time permanent job that I love, I’m still in Hamilton with my friends and living the same convenient lifestyle (15 minutes or less to drive anywhere in Hamilton!). There is progression available in my job and there are opportunities for further study and potential to move into other areas within my organisation, so the future looks bright.
I have always wanted to have a business of my own and still haven’t quite decided exactly what that will be. I do know I want to get into property investing – whether that be my main business or a supplement to another business I am not yet sure. I am happy within myself that I have a secure job and goals for future career choices. I have options and as I was told when I was younger “the world is your oyster”.
So as I am approaching 30 I am comfortable that it’ll be okay, the world won’t end because I don’t have ‘what I want to be when I grow up’ sorted by then. Coming into the workforce and talking to others in my organisation I realised that thinking a career was a one track journey is actually unrealistic. Yes, it may work for some people, but majority of people have moved around doing different jobs and roles over their lifetimes before they settled into what they are doing now. I even know some people that are in their 50’s and still don’t know what they want to be and yet they have lived a full and happy life on their journey trying to figure it out.
I guess I am writing this to let you know that while you are stressing about ‘what next’ with the pressure you can put on yourself, especially in your 20’s, to figure it out – it’s okay. As long as you are doing something you are on the right path. Each choice you make opens up other opportunities and can lead to a world of options. You are still young and there is still time, so don’t let it get you down.
Everything happens for a reason – whatever will be will be, if it’s meant to be it will – that is my ‘motto’ if you will. I live by that and it has worked for me this far in my life. It means I take responsibility for my decisions, I accept that everything happens for a reason and I believe as long as I learn a lesson from each decision or the results of my decision and do something to ensure it changes my future opinions/actions that is good way to live.