I don’t want to grow up…

Adam Grant has an interesting opinion piece on helping kids decide what they want to do when they grow up. His problems with asking what job a kid wants to have when they grow up are:

  1. Self-defining in terms of work. Parents tend to say they want their children to value caring about others. The question instead has kids valuing caring about success.
  2. Self-limiting. The question implies there is one soulmate job for the child. Not having a calling sows confusion and aimlessness. And a calling might not be better as a hobby or volunteer service instead of a viable career. (So the kid needs a career that allows them to pursue the calling.)
  3. False expectations. This one really resonated with me. I wanted to pursue engineering until I realized I hated doing all the math. I wanted to pursue educational psychology until I realized I would have to be a teacher for a few years. Librarian was more reasonable as I worked in a library assisting the degreed folks. I understood the academic librarian situation pretty well (but not public or other librarian types).

I’m all for encouraging youngsters to aim high and dream big. But take it from someone who studies work for a living: those aspirations should be bigger than work. Asking kids what they want to be leads them to claim a career identity they might never want to earn. Instead, invite them to think about what kind of person they want to be — and about all the different things they might want to do.

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