When I was a kid, I told my parents I wanted to be the guy at the garbage dump that pointed you where to park and unload.
I’m not sure how they felt about that at the time. After all, most kids my age wanted to be doctors or athletes or something significant. The guy at the dump probably made minimum wage which, back in 1972 was probably miniscule.
For me, the job looked like a lot of fun. I love digging through trash looking for treasure. But what I really thought was cool was the stick he carried and used to direct traffic. Of course my dream career never happened.
Recently I was contracted to teach a workshop on career development. One question I always ask in the introductions is what each attendee wanted to be when they grew up. The client was uncomfortable with that question so I was forced to explain. The explanation is useful for all of us.
As adults, we are bound by a sense of duty, responsibility, and conformance. For most of us, we have constraints around us that require us to follow the path in life that is usually chosen for us. In a sense, our destiny is chosen for us. We rarely choose.
But that isn’t often the case when we’re kids. Which is why we look at careers that don’t often make sense financially or are even achievable. The key though is to identify, with our adult eyes and minds, what drew us to that career choice all those years ago.
For me, it was being able to hunt for treasure and tell people what to do. The treasure part might make a good hobby now, but the need for power has never gone away. For the first eight years of my Navy career, I was not in a supervisory role. I was told what to do and how to do it. That wasn’t a good fit. Even from year nine to 15, I still had people above me dictating how to supervise. When I got out and went to work at my first few jobs, that problem was still there, even though by then I had two college degrees. So in 2004 I quit bosses altogether and started out my own. In retrospect, it’s probably the need for power that’s driving me.
But that’s me. What about you? What were your aspirations as a child? Can you now, with the benefit of time, see what your motivators were? If so, do they still exist today, maybe hidden and yet still impacting you? If you had the need for power back then do you still have that sense of rebellion? If it was to be seen as the smartest kid in the world, do you find yourself frustrated when someone challenges your judgement?
Career happiness is a right, but a right that needs to be earned. The earning starts when you identify those underlying motives. This week, revisit that inner 7-year-old you still carry around. Are you living the life you wanted back then? If not, why not take some steps to find it?