So, what do you want to be when you grow up?

‘I don’t know’ is an acceptable answer

Anna Hussey, academic and career services coordinator at the University of Winnipeg. (Supplied photo)

For many students, the experiences of growing up, graduating high school and possibly starting post-secondary programs are often plagued by social pressures.

“It is very common for students to enter university not knowing what their major will be or what career they are aspiring to – though we do understand that some may feel pressure to have it all figured out at this point for a variety of reasons,” Anna Hussey, academic and career services coordinator at U of W, says in an email to The Uniter.

“I remember reading Michelle Obama’s book Becoming in middle school,” Yalda Matin, a Grade 11 student from Ontario who is planning to attend university, says in an email to The Uniter.

“The part that stuck with me the most was when she wrote that, as a child, whenever she was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, she would say a pediatrician, because she learned very quickly that it was a pleasing answer. I think this is the same reason why I always said I wanted to be a lawyer.”

Recently, Matin took an introductory-level Canadian law course to explore if law was her true passion or just the “safe plan.” After completing the course, Matin discovered that, although the law is interesting, she is more interested in policy.

Career exploration, changing majors and questioning the social norm are crucial to youth discovering their true passions for the future.

“I still do not know what I want to be when I grow up, even though the time is approaching where I am supposed to be grown up,” Laura Vu says.

Vu is a Grade 12 student planning to attend York University’s Schulich School of Business in the fall. “I just hope I’ll be able to find something that will make me think ‘I want to do this.’”

Finding one’s true passion at a young age may be alienating for some.

“When I was younger, it seemed to be an optimistic question that promoted my imagination to run wild with what I wanted to do in the future,” Sabrina Xing, an aspiring University of Toronto student who is currently in Grade 12, says in an email to The Uniter.

“Now it creates a sense of uncertainty (and) reminds me more of the vast unknowns of my future and lack of knowledge of the ‘real world.’ It puts pressure on me to have an understanding of my ‘true passion,’ which I am supposed to pursue in-depth when there is still so much for me to discover and explore.”

Students struggling to make career decisions are encouraged to connect with their school’s academic and career services, as they are one of the best resources when trying to navigate post-secondary and beyond.

“As much as I wish we could wave a magic wand and tell students what the best course, major or career is for them, making these decisions requires some investment on the student’s part,” Hussey says.

“Decisions are ultimately in their hands, but we strive to empower students with tools and strategies that can make those decisions easier. A common motto in the advising community is ‘I advise, you decide,’ and we really adhere to that in our department.”

Published in Volume 76, Number 11 of The Uniter (November 25, 2021)

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