My three-year old son has updated his answer to: "What do you want to be when you grow up?" for the third time in the couple of days. Each profession — a firefighter, an astronaut, or football player — seems to echo most children's dreams that usually involve an "awesome" job or at least a job that comes with a cool costume.
Nothing can eliminate this early career infatuation from a mother's memory. However, some of us may not even remember what our answers were for that common question when we were children. Career choices evolve through life along with our personal preferences and understanding of what they can and cannot do. And even the more mature choices that we make as teenagers are usually reshaped by parents' financial capabilities, education opportunities and social obligations.
However, a recent survey in the UK found that one of every ten Brits managed to remain faithful to their childhood fantasies and ended up in their childhood dream job. The percentage can be different from one region to another based on how far the educational and social systems support individual ambition.
One factor that remains true though is that people are more likely to excel in a career that matches their personal preferences and fulfils their ambitions whether it is selected early or late in life. Here are a few tips that could help you be happier with your career choice at any stage of your life:
Each society dictates certain images and even professions of successful people. In my home country, being a doctor or an engineer has been almost a trademark of success. However, it is very important particularly at the stage of selecting an education path to look beyond external perceptions and more into personal preferences. Think what a certain job entails and meets your requirements of self-fulfillment and success.
A career has also to agree with your personality. It might be hard for an introvert to admit for instance that a super job that involves dealing with direct contact with people is not for him/her when being a people person is seen as a plus. However, taking steps on this career path may prove only frustrating.
To better know yourself, discuss your career options, concerns and ambition with trusted friends and family members. There are loads of personality tests on line as well. Try personal assessment test, Myers Briggs Type Indicator, which is often used by human resources departments to give them an insight into staff preferences.
Have a plan
If you're sticking with a childhood or adolescent dream job, it is a given that you have, or will, pursued the appropriate education or training to score this job. However, if your parents never helped you on the right path or you were forced to follow a different type of education as a result of your school performance or financial capabilities, it is never too late. You can always change tracks if you have a plan in place. Good ways to switch to a desired career is to take on some volunteer work, seek an apprenticeship or join specialised trade forums. You can always do so while you're still in current career to avoid a financial gap.
If your dream requires learning a new language or even acquiring a college degree, it is absolutely attainable if you've what it takes of determination, time and money. But becoming a professional athlete, for instance, may be impossible if you're not in the right physical shape or you never acquired the proper training in an early age. Weigh you options clearly and make sure you're happy with any compromise to avoid a waste of money and effort.
Persistence holds the key
However, if you think you got what it takes and you are willing to follow the education or training necessary for the job, go for it. Be ready to explain your plan to future employers, find support in professional networks and push to get this first job in your dream career even if it does not pay a dream wage or it comes as a part time or temporary job. There will be a transitional period but if you take the right routes, you might end up doing an awesome job that you always dreamt of as a child.
The writer, a former Business Features Editor at Gulf News, is a freelance journalist based in Salt Lake City, Utah