When you were seven years old, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Believe it or not, taking this nostalgic journey back to a simpler time may be exactly what you need to begin the career-defining or career transition process. Why? Because your instincts at that age while play acting, before the “shoulda, woulda, could” began to impact your choices (hint – someone else’s influence) are the first clues to our natural career interests and skills we must use to be happy.
When I was seven:
Like many of us, I wanted to be a teacher. I used to force my four-year-old brother to sit down at a “desk” while I doled out the assignments and used my precious blackboard to “teach” him the lesson for the day. My desire to become a teacher stuck with me through college. After I got my Bachelor’s Degree I took another year to become a certified secondary education teacher (required in California).
I was 25 at the time and once I completed my course began to look for teaching jobs. Like today, jobs were not plentiful, but I also learned that, while I enjoyed teaching, I did not enjoy teaching high school students. They were too close to being my peers at the time. So I gave up on teaching until I entered the Vocational/Career Counseling field at 29.
My desire for teaching never left me
What I realized is teaching takes many forms and does not always take place in front of a classroom. I love to lead workshops, to give talks, to lead groups, and to teach through my counseling. From age seven, the teaching is a recurring theme in everything I do.
I challenge you to really examine what you enjoyed play acting like a child and see if there is a connection today to your work-related interests. It may seem like a stretch, but if you really examine it, there is a very good chance you will see a correlation. If you do not have Career Happiness, you may want to see how far you’ve strayed from your seven-year-old career dreams.
In the work I do:
I ask my clients to write stories about a time at any point in their lives when they accomplished something they felt good about. It could be something as simple as learning to swim in researching and executing a project that impacted thousands of people. This is one of the exercises that Richard Bolles uses in What Color Is Your Parachute. It is a timeless exercise because it provides an organic way for clients to identify skills that they enjoy using in a work or career setting.
One such story a client recently wrote was from age three:
She and her family were vacationing in Greece. She was in the ocean in an inner tube. Her parents were close by, but her father was a little farther out in the water. She did not know how to swim, but she saw her father and knew that she had to find a way to get to him.
She had a problem to solve:
If she kicked her feet it would propel her to move forward toward her father. When she got in the water, she didn’t have a clue how to make herself move. But by solving the problem and seeing the end result of how to get to Dad, she accomplished her goal and was rewarded with a proud smile.
Her next story was age four and the prominent skill was again problem-solving. In deciding what skills she MUST use in her next career, her choice of stories is clear – she must use problem-solving skills to love what she does in her work. Although she had always understood this to be a skill she enjoyed, writing the stories offered additional clarification, which increased her confidence in the process.
These examples illustrate small pieces of the career design puzzle. They emphasize the need to do the inner work necessary to ultimately find a niche that will take you down the Career Happiness path.