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What do you want to be when you grow up?

It’s that time of year when the summer holidays have come to an end and kids are returning to school for a fresh start and new challenges.  It doesn’t matter how old I get, at this time of year I always find myself reflecting on what I wanted to be when I grew up and what I have achieved so far in my career as well as thinking about what I want to do next with my life.

So what did I want to be when I grew up?

When I was very young I didn’t really think about what I wanted to be, I thought I’d just be doing the same as all the other women that I knew from the community I grew up in.

I thought I’d be a mum, with a part time job. My gran had four children, my mum had five children and by the logic of an eight year old, I thought this meant I would have six children.  I didn’t know any different.

At that age the only woman I knew that really had any sort of career was my Aunt, the youngest of my mother’s siblings, she worked in the payroll department in an office and we would meet her for lunch occasionally.  This was my limited knowledge of women with a career.

Options and Choices…

By the time I was 11 years old I had decided I wanted to be an accountant, I have no idea why?!?  I knew the subjects I would need to study at school and university, but I have no memory of why this was my choice at the time, I don’t recall anything sparking a passion about this career.  Moving house a year later put paid to this option as I also moved schools; and studying accountancy was not available on the curriculum in the new school.

Throughout high school career advice was available, but it was very much an era where female students were encouraged to study home economics and secretarial studies and male students were encouraged to study sciences and technical studies.  So I use the term ‘advice’ loosely!

I told my 14 year-old niece recently that I enjoyed school, but mainly for the social aspect of it. I definitely enjoyed doing things that were more practical such as organising the next school disco (before they were proms or big events) to give people something to look forward to, rather than wanting to do anything too academic. However jobs that focussed on this type of networking didn’t really exist in the early 90’s.

I was intelligent enough and although I knew many things I didn’t want to do, I still didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up.   So I studied for a mixture of qualifications that were not really suited to leading to one particular career path.

Whilst at high school my awareness of what women could achieve in terms of study and career started to shift.  This started when my older sister, who is three years older than myself, went to university.  She was the first person in our family to do this and it was the next step in her trajectory to building her career as a teacher.  It made me realise there were other options available and that actually there was also an element of choice.

There was an assumption that because I got the grades I would follow in her footsteps and also study for a degree.  So I applied and I got a place at university, however I decided to act on this newfound element of choice and I opted to find a job rather than go to university.

So I was not the second person in my family to go to university, instead it was actually my mother who took up that mantle at the time I could have done.  At that point she was 40 years old, she had been a stay at home mum for 20 years and it was another shining example of breaking down boundaries and demonstrating that there were options and choice, regardless of gender or age.

Doing it my way…

Knowing there were options and choices available made it easier for me to do things my own way for my career and well it has been very varied.

My first job after school lasted for 10 years, I took advantage of all of the opportunities available to me and it always felt right.  The job allowed me to develop a management career focussing on everything from operational delivery, to managing profit and loss, marketing and people.  More than that, it also gave me that elusive networking element I was looking for.

This job was where I discovered that I wanted to work in HR and more specifically in talent management, it was where I found my passion supporting others in their careers and development.

I went to University at this point and since then I have been fortunate enough to have held many positions I have not only enjoyed but I have also been challenged by, which has made going to work very easy.

I have continued to lead teams and to create and deliver programmes that support employee development at different career stages.  The one thing that has remained constant throughout all of my working life is the networking element.

So when I reflect on how unsure I was I know I was lucky that I had good examples as I good older, that I had options and choices and opportunities that have resulted in what I have achieved to date.  I think if I ask myself now what I want to be when I grow up…it’s exactly what I am doing now and I am very happy doing it!

What about you, can you say the same?  Have you got options and choices? Have you still got the same passion and drive you that you had when you first started your career? Are you what you might have been? Because it’s never too late.

If you are unsure of your next move, of how to find your passion, or you are thinking of making a career move to help reignite it then Project You Coaching could help you.  Click here to contact me for more information.

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