Manley: Figuring out what to be when you grow up

Published 2:22 pm Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Have you ever heard kids say, “I have no clue what I want to be when I grow up?”

How many of you hear adults say that more than kids?

My guess is we have all felt that way at some point in our lives.

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The reality is most people are not currently working in a job they envisioned for themselves; and that applies to me more than anyone.

So how do we prepare today’s workforce when there is no clear direction for a career pathway for several of us? It is a challenge I feel has a simple solution most people won’t like.

A student walked into my office one day seeking some college and career advice. She previously completed several semesters at Bluegrass Community and Technical College working toward a degree in the health care field, but became discouraged and quit classes to focus on a full-time job.

She soon realized  she didn’t like the field she was working in and wanted to re-enroll in classes to pick up where she left off.

However, the whole time she was talking, I could tell there was a waiver in her voice. I asked if she was OK with her decision to return to school.

That is when she said the famous phrase, “I just don’t know what I want to do, and I feel like I’ve wasted a whole semester doing the wrong thing.”

I replied, “Don’t feel like the last semester was a waste. You just helped yourself realize what you don’t want to do and that will make you more focused on things you do want to do.”

Then I processed what I had said and thought that there were too many ‘dos’ in my statement. However, it seemed to make sense and it helped the student realize she was more determined and focused than ever before.

Way back, when trying to choose my career, I decided to work in different fields I was interested in.

After passing out on top of a patient in the dental chair, I quickly realized dentistry wasn’t for me. Then, after a few other jobs, I started working as an advisor for college freshmen, and that is where I found my passion. Working in education and helping better students and the community is what I enjoy, but it is not ever something I planned to do. It happened in part because I found out what I didn’t want to do.

So what is my simple solution for finding a career pathway? Volunteer, intern and work, no matter how old you are. It’s not the easiest of choices and several high school and middle school students ignore my advice for summers that are easy and fun.

Start early, build experiences, get references, use talents and find passions.

No matter what you end up doing, it will pay off when you find out what you do want to do.