When-I-grow-up career goals

I remember when I was four or five my sister and I being asked what we wanted to be when we grew up. I don’t remember much from this age, so the question must have really struck a bell. My sister (18 months my senior) had discussed the topic with me before – she wanted be a lolly shop owner. We both agreed, this seemed like a pretty sweet gig – presumably sampling your wares is part of the daily routine.

“What about you?” I was asked. The idea of being an adult was so alien that contemplating what I wanted to be once I got there was unfathomable. At that age, a 10 year old seemed immeasurably old and mature; becoming an adult was as outlandish a concept as becoming a dog.

In the end I answered fireman, but mainly because the only jobs high in my childhood consciousness were policeman and fireman, and those of my parents – teacher (mother) and potter (father). My friend Lee’s father was a builder, but if Lee’s father was to go by, being a builder just made you angry. Most of my friends seemed unsure of what their parents really did; they went to ‘work’ in the morning and came back from ‘work’ in the evening. Besides, I was budding pyromaniac at the time and the idea of being a fireman appealed in an abstract sort of way.

Despite intoning “I want to be a fireman” for a time to come when asked the what-do-you-want-to-be question, it was said with no real conviction and before long it was only said as a means to satisfy an adult’s pesky interest in the absurd.

Tossing up between All White and cricket star…

I guess the first career goal that I truly aspired to was established on the lower field of Wadestown Side School. This is where I developed a love of cricket and soccer and began to formulate a dream of playing for the All Whites or the New Zealand cricket team.  The dream was seasonal – summer: famous cricketer, winter: famous soccer player.

A year ahead of me at school was the son of an actual famous New Zealand cricketer. I remember his father coming to school to talk to the kids. He was regarded with awe by kids and teachers alike. It was a job that seemed to tick all boxes.

Playing soccer or cricket for a job was something I could actually comprehend. I knew what soccer players and cricket players did because I played soccer and cricket every day at lunchtime. So winter the dream was scoring a runaway goal for the All Whites, come summer the dream morphed into hitting a six to win a one day final against Australia. It was always against Australia. And in this way my career aspirations fluctuated with seasons for the next five or six years.

Dreams of flying come crashing down

By eleven, though still harbouring lofty sporting aspirations, I had developed a slightly more mature career goal and set my sights on becoming a helicopter pilot – a dream I toyed with for a number of years.

I have no idea how this dream of flying a helicopter arose, but I recall its steady decent from dream to something more akin to a phobia. It started with the death of a helicopter pilot not far from where I lived after he flew his machine into electricity cables strung between a gully. ‘You’d never even see them and the next thing you’d be plummeting from the sky’ my father said. And from then on I started to notice the alarming regularity with which helicopter crashes were reported on the six o’clock news.

They seemed to be falling out of the sky with such frequency that not only did I start to question the wisdom of taking up such a profession, but I started to question the wisdom of the very existence of helicopters. And, as with fireman, helicopter pilot eventually slipped off my career radar.

Needless to say, I never found fame and fortune on the sports field and my pyromaniac streak was quelled by a few burns and one out-of-control fire I set with neighbourhood kids in our garden. I have flown in a helicopter, but only briefly and only as a passenger. I get little solace in knowing that I am not the only family member to fail to fulfill their childhood what-I-want-to-be-when-I-grow-up aspirations – my sister has never owned a lolly shop.

We want to hear about your when-I-grow-up career goals

In my current job, I have interviewed dozens of people about their work and have been surprised by how many of them have said the job they were doing now was something they had dreamed of doing since they were a kid.

Are you one of these people who achieved your childhood dream job? Or did it slip out of reach as the years ticked by?

Tell us about your childhood career aspirations and whether you achieved them or not. If you are yet to grow up (literally or metaphorically), tell us what your career aspirations are and how you plan on making them a reality.


  1. belindalau

    The traditional Chinese way of deciding When-I-grow-up career goals: http://viccareers.wordpress.com/2013/02/08/career-decided-at-1-year-old/

  2. Patricia Laurenson

    When I was young, people didn’t tend to ask me this, as they – and I – assumed I’d become a teacher, like my father and grandmothers before me. And the only other jobs I saw people doing were farmer and dental nurse – neither of which appealed. It was a secret relief when I got turned down for training college.
    If I’d had the intiative to think for myself as a child, my dream job would have entailed being paid to read, and to find out stuff – which is pretty much what I’ve ended up doing as a researcher/writer.
    Or a lolly shop owner. Oh, the dreams I missed out on!

  3. diabolikmagician

    I wanted to be a lawyer at 10, a music journalist at 15 and a diabolik magician at 20.

    • Ned Wotherspoon

      Diabolic magician at 20…21,22,23,24,25,26,27…

  4. Anna Leslie

    I grew up in a very strict catholic environment so naturally I wanted to be a nun until I worked out what that meant! Then a teacher, next a bank teller until my brother cruelly told me neither of these jobs would make me boss. (in those days) Something very important in my family! But about 12 years of age I knew I had to be a farmer, a lifestyler with chickens, an organic crusader, I spent years of sporadic study and practice in this field and now I am sadly a very depressed accountant.

  5. laurencareers

    I once said that I wanted to be a florist, something which I am still teased about to this day. People also assumed I would be a nurse because I come from a long line of nurses – a career path that I had (and still have) zero interest in!

  6. msnadz

    I wanted to be a teacher at 12, a software engineer at 15 and a today i m working as Jr. s/w engineer.


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s