Editorials by Robert Kirwan

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up? 
   “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
   That is the million dollar question that has been asked to young people since the beginning of time. In “the old days” – when I was growing up – the answer was fairly obvious for most of us. It was considered your personal responsibility to find a good job so that you could earn enough money to support yourself, your family and to help you enjoy your leisure time. You were more concerned about decent pay, adequate benefits and providing for retirement than you were about “finding your place in society”. You learned to be satisfied with the work you were able to obtain, rather worry about wasting much time and energy bouncing around from job to job trying to find something else that would make you happier.
   Today things are a lot different! Young people coming into the workplace now are very confused. They’ve been promised all of their life that if they study hard, get good marks and stay in school they will be able to do anything they want. They have been told that there are plenty of good careers out there that will provide them with wealth and happiness. All they have to do is continue to get the right education.
   Nevertheless, despite all of the positive encouragement and despite the vast multitude of different career choices that exist today, we find that 50% of all high school students avoid post-secondary education all together, entering a life marked by going from one odd meaningless job to another while trying to decide what they really want out of life. Of the 50% who do manage to go on to college or university, over half of those either drop out of their original course or switch to another program. And further, only half of those who remain in their program to the end will eventually find a job that is related to their studies. Finally, almost all of those who achieve their objective of landing a job in their chosen career will change careers within the first seven years of beginning the new job.
   So what in the world is going on? Why is there so much confusion? What has happened during the past several decades that has made it so difficult for everyone to come up with an answer to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
   Some will say that there are so many career choices today that it is difficult for a person to make up his/her mind. I think it is a much deeper problem, and it has a lot to do with the fact that young people today are being “groomed” and “directed” towards careers that are all wrong for them in the first place.  

   As parents, we all want to do what is best for our children, so it is easy to fall into a trap. You try to provide your children with the education and training that YOU THINK will help them get them into a career that YOU FEEL will be suitable and worthwhile. Sometimes this requires your child to try to do something that he/she is just not suited for. To show you what I mean, let me share a story with you that has always been one of my favourites.
"Once upon a time the animals in the forest decided they must do something to meet the problems of a new world. So they organized a school.
   They adopted the activity curriculum consisting of running, climbing, swimming and flying and, to make it easier to administer, all the animals were required to take all of the subjects.
   The duck was excellent in swimming – better in fact than his instructor – and made passing grades in flying, but he was very poor in running. Since he was slow in running he had to stay after school and also drop swimming to practice running. This was kept up until his web feet were so badly worn; he was now only average in swimming.
   The rabbit started off at the top of the class in running but had a nervous breakdown because of so much overwork trying to compete in the swimming area.
   The squirrel was excellent in climbing until he developed frustration in the flying class where his teacher made him start from the ground up instead of from the tree-top down.
   The eagle was a problem child and was disciplined severely. In the climbing class he beat all the others to the top of the tree, but insisted on using his own way to get there.
   At the end of the year, the animals decided to close the school. The duck went back to swimming all day; the rabbit ran through the forest; the squirrel flew from tree top to tree top; and the eagle soared in the blue sky."
   In all my 28 years as a teacher, I NEVER came across a single student who was not gifted in some particular area. Everyone possesses a PASSION FOR LIFE that allows him/her to develop superior skill levels and a love for a certain aspect of life. Some love sports; the outdoors; working with machines; working with children; working with older adults; etc. These are things that they love doing more than anything else and these are things at which they are exceptional. These passions stay with you for your entire life.
   I met a young lady the other day who was enrolled in a program which would give her a diploma as a Certified Make-up Artist and Nail Technician. When I asked what had interested her in this particular career, she stated that she had always loved doing creative art when she was young and wanted to get into a career where she could use her artistic talents. She felt that working with make-up and nails would allow her to use her artistic skills and continue to develop this passion. 

    So whether you are a high school graduate looking for your first job, or if you are a 65 year old retiree looking for a new career, always remember that you will be a lot happier if you develop your strongest skills and do what you do best.  If you want to be happy, look for a career that will fit in with your true passion for life and your natural talents. Don’t try to change yourself or do something you are not comfortable with just to fit into a career that looks promising or you will be looking for another job real soon.

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