The Big Question
In my first ever careers lesson in Secondary School, at the grand old age of 14, the teacher asked everyone on the room, what I wanted to be when I grow up (more specifically, when I left school), and why.
He said there wasn’t any wrong answers, and truthfully, I didn’t know at all.
We were told that we needed to pick the subject we were going to be learning for the next 2 years, upon which our qualifications would be chosen, and would lead to the career of our choice,or not. so we needed to have a good idea of what we wanted to do.
Even if I’d thought about it for hours, I wouldn’t have known. I absolutely 100% did not have a clue.
My Summer Job
I had been working for one of my Dad’s friends as an electrician’s mate, which I had enjoyed tremendously. Looking back, I really enjoyed it, because it was a variance to my otherwise mundane, poor, boring life.
I’d been spending my spring and summer break from school doing this, because in all honesty, I had nothing better to do. It was fun. It kept me amused, got me out of the house, and gave me a little money. There was a feeling of independence, and escape.
It was interesting, too. Learning about electrical work, wiring houses, fire alarms, etc, was interesting to me. There was a sense of accomplishment and pride, gaining an understanding of something I’d previously thought of as mysterious, and complex.
I was unveiling a mystery, and feeding my brain. This felt satisfying, alongside a sense of accomplishment. It felt as if I was getting somewhere, moving forwards in my life. This was new and different, exciting almost. Maybe this is something I could do when I grow up?
My Answer to the Big Question
When it was my turn to answer, I said when I grow up, I want to be an electrician, because my Dad was one. It was a lie.
Never once as a kid, had I thought I wanted to be an electrician. I also had never wanted to be anything like my father.
There was a certain pressure to knowing the answer. After all, we were not going to be at school much longer (secondary education is over by age 16 in the U.K.).
We had almost been led to believe if we didn’t know what we wanted to do, then our lives would be in turmoil.
The implied perception was that if I didn’t know what we wanted to do when I grow up, then I would go nowhere. We were told we would never be able to find a job, and we would end up on the scrap heap. We’d end up just doing anything, and taking things we didn’t want.
Nobody grows up wanting to be a store clerk, or checking people out at the supermarket. We’re raised to fear this as our outcome. The fear of failure is the product of the education system I grew up in.
The Fear of the Unknown
You could consider the fear inflicted upon children, the personification of the fear that the teachers themselves have. After all, didn’t they have to know what they were doing, go to university, get a teaching degree, only to be in a job they really hated. didn’t they spend a fortune going to college, and so felt trapped in their own circumstances?
Apologies go out to any teachers that enjoy their jobs. This opinion formed from the teachers that taught me, for they seemed more than dissatisfied and disillusioned with their surroundings, me being a part of them. If I had taught me, I can’t blame them, I was a royal pain-in-the-arse.
The funny thing is, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.
What’s College For?
Growing up, it was never explained to me, why people went to college or university.
Bad report cards would trigger angry lectures with no substance, for without reason, how could I understand?
My parents had never spoken about college or university. They had only yelled and screamed at me saying I had to do my school work, and that I should do better.
They kept saying If I did well in school, when I grow up, I could be a bank manager? Why would I want to be a bank manager? That job sounds like it SUCKS (I still think that job sucks today). To do well in school and end up doing THAT? NO, THANK YOU. No offense to all the bank managers out there, it’s just not for me.
They couldn’t have put me off more if they tried.
What’s a University?
I’d never met anyone that had gone to college, or university. I didn’t even understand what university was.
None of my school friends went. I had no idea why people went to college. Almost everyone surrounding me as a child came from a poor background, never went to college, and had dead-end jobs. I knew no better.
I feel that my educators, parents, and advisors, had all failed me. Why hadn’t they given me college and university as a motivator to have a better life?
School was for getting yelled at, berated, and told that I need to finish the work on time. I really, truthfully, didn’t understand why the work was important. To be completely honest, I’m at a loss at times, even today. I couldn’t wait to get out of that hell-hole at the end of the day.
I had been told I needed to learn to get somewhere in life, but where I was supposed to get, was a complete mystery to me.
Looking back, most people I know that went to college, only spent a ton of money, to become alcoholics. None of them followed their career path, or used their further education for anything of value in their lives.
I’ve been told by some of these people that a university degree will mean you’ll be able to get a job in management. I’ve worked in management, it SUCKS.
I saw absolutely no benefit to completing school work. I still don’t. It was all boring, and had absolutely no use to me.
How is it of use to know all the capital cities in Europe, or knowing the names of Henry VIII’s wives? Is this knowledge ultimately of any use to anyone?
When was any knowledge of Ann Boleyn, required for you to get by in life?
The next time you want a pay-rise, need a mortgage for a home, or need to understand how to handle a death in the family emotionally, this information won’t help you.
Knowing how the Bayeux Tapestry tells the tale of how King Harold got shot in the eye in the Battle of Hastings in 1066, and William the Conqueror took over, won’t help you find a job, help your financial well-being, or help you understand people better.
None of the information given to me at school helped me understand finance, or what to do with money if I ever earned any.
I’ve since concluded that academic educational success produces one thing consistently, people that do as their told, follow instructions, and retain information well.
Creativity has no place in the education system.
Why did I Lie?
So why did I lie, when asked what I wanted to do? I felt the peer pressure of needing to know.
I wish that back then, I had the bravery to ignore that pressure, and just say I didn’t know.
Self-awareness is something all people try to learn later in life. It’s something we do, to try and correct our parents and peers mistakes, and create our own better versions of ourselves.
Deep down I had no clue what I wanted to do, but the pending doom of not-knowing loomed over my head.
I figured I would just go be an electrician for a while. People would always need electricity. If all else failed, I could have a trade to fall back on.
It felt like a secure way to get on with life, to start somewhere. I’m 100% positive that many people start their careers this way, and it works out for them.
A Sunny Start
I absolutely LOVED this job! I enjoyed every minute of it. To this day, it is the best job I’ve ever had.
My first year as an apprentice electrician, I only earned a whopping £63.47 (about $110.00) per week. In this aspect, I consider myself fortunate to have grown up poor. If you can’t afford hobbies, you can’t have them, so I didn’t spend any of the money I earned.
I rode my bike to work through wind, rain, sleet, snow, all nasty British weathers, to get to that job. I was motivated to succeed, and enjoying the freedom.
Having worked as an electrician’s mate at school, I had started trade school with more knowledge and more experience than most.
I found my practical college classes easy, absolutely LOVED all the theory, especially mathematics, algebra, and advanced formulas we were being taught.
There was no disconnect in the learning, in that I knew why I needed the information, it was practical, and useful to me.
The above is something the academic education system fails to explain, or motivate you with.
The Inevitable Truth
I felt smart, I was going somewhere, but then sooner or later the inevitable happened.
I got bored.
Once I knew everything about wiring houses, that was about it. There wasn’t much else to learn on a practical side.
Hotels were just bigger versions of houses. Schools, and any other form of installation, was also pretty much the same. The work in running cables everywhere, is the same job. Light switches and sockets are the same everwhere.
Once the learning I needed was over, college lessons turned into lessons teaching me things I no longer needed practically in my every day work, but needed to learn to acquire my qualifications.
I would never need to know the internal circuit diagrams of the 20 variances of different type of fluorescent light ballasts available.
The work was the same thing every single day, and the college work was just boring, impractical, drivel.
I had no passion for being an electrician. It wasn’t my dream. My heart was no longer in it.
As I was working, my mind would wonder, and I would make rookie mistakes.
What Does ‘Laid Off’ Mean?
In 1993, during the Early 90’s Recession, I was laid off. This was catastrophic for my existence at the time.
Up until the words came out of my boss’s mouth, I had never heard the term ‘laid off’, before.
He explained the small firm I worked for had a ‘first in, last out’ policy, and I was the last in.
I was confused, what did ‘laid-off’ mean? When I asked if I was being fired, I was told no.
He explained the circumstances again. I didn’t understand the difference. Either way, I didn’t have a job, and I was done for.
Now, without ever really having a plan to begin with, I had no plan at all.
The Irony of it All
Fast forward 25 years, and I’m asking myself today, what I want to do.
I’ve had many great, and varied jobs over the years.
Being a professional extreme sports athlete was amazing fun, I had the best time of my life, but never made any money.
Sales has been a lot of fun, because I found it was a welcoming career open to me with no qualifications, that pays well. It can be boring and repetitive, but also creative and communicative.
I’ve even had my own extremely successful business, where I took the change on the bedroom floor, and turned it into $300,000.00 per year. It was the most fun I’d ever had, and didn’t want to quit, even when eventually I should have.
The irony is,I’m 41 years old, and I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.
Many of the jobs, businesses, or careers that I’ve worked in, have just sort-of come along. I’d say I’m more of an opportunist.
I try to create opportunities, in order that I night find the next thing I’ll be doing, but sometimes even THAT’S hard.
The Answer to the Question
When you don’t have a clue what you want to do, how do you find out?
I think the answer to this question is simple;
- Whatever it is, it will either find you, or it won’t.
- If you don’t find it, whatever you are doing, was what you wanted to do.
- If you don’t want to do what you’re doing, do something else, that you DO want to do.
- Keep looking, and never settle.
Understand that whatever you find that you want to do, that thing may not make you money, but instead only bring you joy.
It also doesn’t need to, and may not, make any sense to anyone else in the world.
Follow your heart, try new things, and life may surprise you.
I’ll probably never grow up.