As the holiday season abounds and families once again gathering together, the inevitable question arises, especially to those whose academic level will soon place them on the path to high school graduation. “What do you want to do or study when you graduate?” Presented as a part of common dialogue in family gatherings, most adults rarely pause to think how monumental a question that is to ask.
However, given that children have been busy being students, following directions given to them, and orders directed at them, and lessons focused on finite details, it is not surprising that many students do not exactly know what they want to be when they grow up. In all reality, how could someone who has never actually had the opportunity or the training or the understanding to take on a career possibly know exactly what he wants to do? Therefore, the question is often answered, with a major to be studied, an area of interest, or the ever popular, “I’m not sure.” Ironically, the unsure answer is most likely the most honest answer. However, somehow students feel as if they’ve failed Society 101 if they cannot immediately craft a clever response sure to make the adults smile and nod their heads at the answer.
What one plans to be when he grows up is, in many instances, quite different from what he imagined early in his academic career. Given that a majority of kindergarten boys may wish to become race car drivers or wrestlers, this career path does not prove realistic for many students. Furthermore, given that becoming a rock star is also popular response, the evidences indicate that this is also a dramatically less frequent outcome than imagined. The reality is that it is important to encourage students to consider studying something special, something that they are excited about, and something that will give them inspiration. It is not all about limiting their options to merely those pursuits known to realize good financial outcomes in 2021. The world job market has changed dramatically over the past 20 years and early indicators are that it will continue to change at a pace never before witnessed. According to Forbes, “The future job market will be radically different — almost alien — to what we have now. There are a waves-of-forces that will significantly change the way we work and the type of jobs we hold. The rapid ascension of sophisticated technology, global connectedness and a confluence of other factors will make the workforce of the future almost unrecognizable.”
How could students truly know what they want to become with certainty, given the most uncertain job market predictions? The reality is that students of today, posturing to become leaders of tomorrow, are best encouraged to focus on something or a set of skills where they find inspiration and motivation, to an area where they can imagine themselves contributing. In detailed and data based article by McKinsey.com, types of jobs were analyzed based on their growth potential in different areas of the world. The outcomes were most interesting, with nearly nine percent of the jobs in entirely new occupations by 2030. Significant increases in job availability are expected in creative fields, technology, construction, and teaching, in addition to modest growth in professional positions. However, overshadowing all markets will be an expanding need for healthcare providers.
What one plans to become when he grows up often changes, based on additional exposures to new opportunities and skills and information. Based on an abundance of data from a variety of sources, the future job market will impact not only today’s students planning on tomorrow but on today’s workers who may also have to reimagine their skills, interests, and abilities to ensure that what they remain marketable in this most unchartered of future economies. What do you want to be when you grow up or what career do you have planned? Perhaps that’s a question for everyone at the family gathering, not just the children…
Dr. Angela Farmer is a lifelong educator, an author, and a syndicated columnist. She serves Mississippi State University as an Assistant Clinical Professor of Honors Education for the Shackouls Honors College where she can be reached at [email protected]