©2020 Mary Hickey

What do you want to be when you grow up?

What do you want to be when you grow up?  This question is often posed to children during primary school.  Responses to this question often include; a fireman, a camogie star, a farmer etc.  A recent family outing reminded me of this.  The story goes 3 young boys in 6th class were asked by the school principal;

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Dermot answered I want to work in a forest cutting trees.

Anthony answered I want to be an astronaut.

Matt answered I want to be a professional soccer player.

With the naivety and innocence of a child these young boys dared to dream. I wonder how many people now in their working life can say that they are doing the work that they dreamed of doing when they were asked this question in primary school. The intervening years bring many changes. 

Erikson’s (1963) stages of psychosocial development suggest that during the transition from child to teenager to adult questions arise including; who I am, what is my future role in life, and where am I going?  In this time the young person will explore many roles and engage in many activities so that they can find themselves. Answering these questions assists the young person in forming a positive view of themselves, others and the world and according to Erikson allows that young person to form a sense of identity rather than settling into what he referred to as role confusion. It is a huge developmental milestone for the teenager when they feel this sense of positive identity.  This sense of identity incorporates many areas including religious/cultural believes, sexual orientation, relationships, and career identity (O’ Brien 2011). 

As a career consultant I work with many students from the age of fourteen to twenty years.  I see first- hand the sense of relief, pride, belief and awareness that the young person experiences once they establish that there are so many careers available to them and that they have so many options regarding future choices.  Further to this I have witnessed the awakening or if you like the forming of an identity that the young person experiences once they have established a career goal and how they can achieve this goal.   In a nutshell career guidance is not all about getting the student to go college to do a course.  It is about helping that person to find themselves and to help them establish their identity and their unique role.

For many their career is born with them but they may need seeds sown for it to develop into a realistic idea, others may need careful excavation and cultivating to establish their career goal. Regardless of the journey results are achievable leading to a positive sense of self, others and world therefore a positive sense of identity.