By Lisa Cypers Kamen.
When I participated in my first career day, I was barely old enough to walk to the bus stop by myself. What does a fourth grader know about a career? Very little, but boy, did we try to dream up big goals. Clustered in my elementary school’s tiny library, my classmates and I were each on a mission to find the perfect careers to compliment our strengths. Doctor was a popular pick for the science geeks. There were many future firefighters and presidents in the room, mostly among the classmates who were natural leaders. The more talkative kids all seemed to gravitate toward the entertainment biz, the more introspective ones set their sights on teaching or writing.
As children, teens, and even young adults, there’s no escaping the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And as annoying and predictable as it might be, it really is an idea worth chewing on. When we think about what we want to be, it’s natural to think about our strengths and skills. The future firefighters recognized their penchant for helping people, and the would-be presidents identified their strong leadership skills. And the quieter kids with less overt gifts found paths that would put their strong thinking skills to good use.
Each of us has a natural knack for something, and the sooner we embrace those parts of ourselves, the better. By asking ourselves what we want to be rather than who we want to be, we refuse to compromise our identities. We own ourselves and see our gifts as beneficial to our careers rather than defined by them. So the next time someone asks you what you want to be, don’t balk or shrug off the question as a generic conversation starter. Take a few moments to identify your strengths and think about how you can put them to good use. Each of us has a mark to make, and our natural strengths are the fuel for what we can accomplish.
Happiness is an inside job.®
Imagine that you are applying for a job. The application prompts you to list what skills make you a strong candidate. Without knowing the job’s major duties and responsibilities, brainstorm at least five natural skills you possess that you feel set you apart. By completing this exercise, you should begin to see that your natural gifts and talents enhance your career prospects, not vice versa. Who you are is with you from the day you are born; and with a little luck, you’ll use that essence to discover what you want to be.