What I Want To Be When I Grow Up
April 19, 2012
When I was a senior in high school, the school counselor gave me and my classmates a career interest assessment test to help us choose our college majors. At the time, I was certain that I would be a music major and would become a band director. I therefore answered all the questions in the test instrument with the express purpose of having it confirm the preconceived outcome I had in mind. To my intense surprise, “Band Director” was nowhere in my top five career recommendations; nor was “Musician” in any form. Instead, the top five were “Writer,” “Attorney,” “Journalist,” “Speaker,” and “Teacher.” I’m sure you see the connection among the five; I didn’t at the time because I was so set on my chosen path that I didn’t stop to analyze this now rather obvious outcome. Convinced that the assessment was a useless piece of crap, I tucked it into a folder to be forgotten for many years.
As you can guess, that career interest assessment was right on target, and I knew next to nothing about myself and my true talents at the tender age of 18. I was a music major for a whopping ten days before running screaming from the windowless dungeon of the dusty basement practice rooms in the music building and changing my major to English. In the almost 25 years since I took that career test, I have made a living as a writer, journalist, speaker, and teacher. I even almost became an attorney as well; I took the LSAT and was accepted to law school when I was 39, but I did not go because I was ultimately unwilling to incur almost $100,000 in student loan debt to get a couple more letters after my name.
The moral of the story is that we all need to assess ourselves honestly and often. Toss away preconceived self-perceptions and career outcomes and consider the idea that who and what you think you are is not in fact the entirety of who and what you really are. You may even be entirely wrong! How delightful would that be? Imagine the enchantment of reinventing yourself at whatever age you are now, with the same feelings of excitement and discovery you had when you were just starting out. Perhaps it’s time to find a career coach and take one of those career assessment tests again.