We are encouraged as children to explore, try new things and to let our curiosity steer us towards new and interesting paths. All young kids have dreams like becoming a painter, a firefighter, a horse racer, or training with dolphins. But as we get older and enter high school, with more responsibilities and the realities of life starting to set in, we step away from those “childish dreams” because they aren’t necessarily practical, and start to focus on a career that we can be good at and that will earn us sufficient money to pay our bills. Our ideas of what we once wanted to be when we grew up are diminished, and more practical career choices become the new objective.
When I was a child, I dreamed of working with animals (either of the land or the sea) and considered a career as a veterinarian or marine biologist. But once I got older and realized I would have to take subjects in school that I struggled with (math and science namely), and that these professions required double the time in post-secondary school compared to a typical 4-year degree (and double the tuition money – or debt depending on where your funds are coming from), I switched my focus to choosing something more practical. At the time I thought it was just too much effort, time and money to aim for those careers. During my last year of high school, I applied to an array of programs because I really didn’t know what they heck I wanted to do! I chose teaching, graphic design, business management and general arts, and ended up selecting the most practical option that led to the widest range of career paths (business/tourism management).
What if we weren’t influenced by practicality, money, time or people in our lives? What if we had more time to try new things that engage and challenge us – to figure out what we like and what makes us happy and what is worth the effort - before having to start planning out our career at age 15? I think an extended learning program that allows youth to work in the field for a few years before selecting a profession would be amazing – hands on experience and the ability to try things that you think interest you before committing. Perhaps work between the ages of 14 and 20, then start defining your career path through chosen school courses. Wouldn’t that be a change for our education system?!
Now, the pressure is on for students to pick a career that they’ve only heard or read about, but likely not had the opportunity to experience – to really understand what is involved in living that job on a day-to-day basis. I’m not including co-ops and internships – a 3 month or even a year placement in a role where you are likely getting the ‘grunt tasks’ or basics of the role, and where you have already chosen a professional path (I had my internship in my third year of post-secondary, which is already at the point of no return). I don’t think these programs should be one of the most important factors for deciding on your future profession. What do you think?
To clarify, I’m not downplaying my BComm and I’m grateful for the opportunity for experience through my internship. The education I received is valuable and can be translated to many job opportunities and careers. I’m just saying, what if we had more time [earlier on] to experience what it’s really like ‘on the job’?
I graduated over three years ago and have held several jobs related to the industry I chose, and I enjoy the work I do; but I still don’t feel sure in my decision to pursue a career in tourism. Many others I know feel the same – we just aren’t certain that we made the right choice or that we can be happy long-term in said career/industry. The job market is daunting in Canada, with young adults (under 30) struggling to find steady employment out of school and get started in their careers. But that’s not the most intimidating thing for me. No, the thing that I contemplate most is, what if I had chosen differently? What if I had pursued my original career goal as a veterinarian or marine biologist? Will I regret giving up my childhood passions so early on in life?
I think that’s why there are so many people out there who are changing careers and ‘starting over’ in a different industry or just trying something new. And I think that sheds a bit of light on the situation for me – knowing that staying in one job your entire life isn’t the norm anymore. If I choose to, I can pursue something entirely different 5, 10, 20+ years down the road.
So the point I’m trying to make is that I think young adults need more time to find their true passions. Society shouldn’t put the pressure on us to choose a career path and get a post-secondary education right out of high school. We should be encouraged not only as children, but as budding adults to continue to explore things that interest and engage us – that stimulate our minds and challenge us in ways we have only begun to explore. They say that "life is a journey", but what fun is the journey when you’ve pre-set your course and can’t venture off route?
So even as an adult, remember your inner child – that always curious person who enjoys trying new things and encourages thinking outside the box. And don’t ever think that you’re stuck in the life you’ve created. You have a choice and can choose to make changes in your life where you see fit – you just have to take the plunge!
I'm a 20-something woman working my way through life in Canada, traveling when I can afford it and seeking out my passions one day at a time.