Wouldn't it be great if we called it a "career journey" instead of a "career path?" I think this would create less anxiety and give people permission to take more risks.
I'm on vacation with my daughters in Pennsylvania for spring break. We've have a whirlwind tour – the Camden Aquarium, the Strousburg Railroad and the Great Wolf Lodge in the Poconos complete with a (78,000 square foot water park). They had a blast; I'm of course spent.
I did get a chance however to speak to a group of seniors at the high school I attended a hundred years ago. The occasion – Career Day. I tried to keep the talk light and fun, with the occasional piece of sage advice thrown in. These are smart kids, kids who are being accepted to some of the top colleges in the country, and thus they are being encouraged to think about what they want to be when they grow up.
When you think about it we start asking kids the question when they are old enough to speak: "What do you want to be when you grow up?" we say to young children. The answers range from princess to astronaut to ballerina. But suddenly when you are a teenager approaching college you're supposed to know.
Not only do I think this is unrealistic, but I think it hinders one's ability to think outside the box, be creative, take risks, fail and start over again. We should encourage young people to explore their passions and try to find a way to blend those with what they choose to do in life.
I'm twenty-five years older than most of the students I spoke to and I'm still working on what I want to be when I grow up. And that's okay. It's a journey – one that will hopefully last for several more decades.