Career advice from 5-year-old you

Are you struggling to find your true calling? Are you working, but wondering why you don’t love your job the way you think you should? Perhaps it’s time to talk to your inner child. 

Despite an endless assortment of careers in the world, our options tend to feel limited. This begins from the very first time someone asks you, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” When I was asked this in preschool, I replied “I want to paint wooden toys”. Oddly specific!

My answer was connected to a wooden train set. It was elegant, with smooth maroon, navy, dark green and black paint and it made me happy just to look at it. I thought I would like to put that rich coloured paint onto wooden toys, just like some unknown person had done to that lovely train. Marie Kondo may have only been in preschool herself at that stage, but that train sure sparked joy.

The grown-up response I received to my oddly specific statement was, “Oh, you want to be an artist”.But I didn’t like drawing and painting that much. A few years later, I realised I loved maths. Then the adults around me said, “Maybe you’ll be an accountant”. Pity that finance and tax was my least favourite part of maths.

We ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, as if being an adult is – literally – a piece of cake. Pick one that seems good, follow the recipe and be.that.cake. Our choices are limited to the cakes we’ve seen before. As a kid who loved maths, I didn’t know I was already collecting the ingredients to be an advertising statistician, economics journalist or a computer game developer (or this sales analyst for an adult toy company that really loves his job!). All I knew was that maths was an ingredient in “Accountant”. 

Think about what gave you joy as a child, way back as young as you can remember, and consider this: kids don’t know what’s good for them, they just know emotions. There’s not a lot of thought about money, life purpose or obligation to society. But at some point, the games and make-believe stop (well, for most of us). When did you stop, and why? Other commitments, schoolwork or sports? Peer pressure to sell your Pokémon cards and hang out at the mall instead? Chances are it was an external influence. You didn’t wake up one day to find that you no longer enjoyed playing.

It’s time to tune in to your inner child!

  1. What did you do for fun as a kid? What games did you like, what role did you play in those games? 
  2. What subjects did you like the most at school? 
  3. Where was your favourite place to be? Running around outside, in your room, at a friend’s house? Why did that location make you happy?

These three questions above tap into your inner child’s mind, body and soul. Does your current job feed into these?

I don’t paint wooden toys and I’m not an accountant. I liked owning my role in team games, and I loved playing make-believe at home. Now I have an autonomous role within a large team. My love of maths and that gorgeous train were actaully a love of logic and the satisfaction of seeing a job completed, knowing that I helped make that happen. Now I thrive on project work focused on process improvement.   

What is your inner child telling you to do?

Photo by Jacek Pobłocki on Unsplash

Want to get in touch with your inner child?

Draw! How long has it been since you’ve sat down and drawn something just for fun? I found an online free textbook about how to draw cartoons, so with a quick online search could you find a relaxing new skill to develop!

Play a favourite game! Did you know you can play DOS games on your phone? That may not be exciting unless you are in my age group, but it is. If DOS games aren’t your thing, maybe it’s time to play a little Angry Birds, or perhaps The Sims?

Watch a childhood favourite! While I was usually a Warner Brothers cartoon fan, I will always have a soft spot for Fantasia.

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