Everything I ever needed to know about choosing the right career path, I learned from a five-year-old boy named Carlos.
“Sara, what do you want to be when you grow up?” I asked.
“A doctor!” she replied.
“Ben, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
“A firefighter!” he answered.
That was the scene in Ms. Sabol’s kindergarten class in inner city Philadelphia. The children were sharing what they wanted to be when they grow up. One by one, we went around the room. All had their hopes and dreams planned out. It didn’t matter what they told me they wanted to be; all that mattered was that they wanted to be someone … something … someday.
Then along came Carlos. “Carlos, what do you want to be when you grow up?” I asked. Silently, he sat still with a little grin on his face…
Do you remember those days? The days when all you worried about was if you had peanut butter and jelly for lunch or what the letter of the alphabet was for the day? Well, congratulations! You’ve made it through and are now a proud high school graduate! You’ve survived senior projects, SATs, proms, breakups, and rumors and are now looking forward to a great summer with your friends and family before embarking on your journey to college.
I’ve been in your shoes and understand the feelings you are experiencing. One minute you’re excited, the next, terrified. You might know the exact path you want to take and exactly what you want and desire out of life. You may also have no idea what you want and get sick just thinking about having to choose.
“Carlos, what do you want to be when you grow up?” I asked again. Carlos just sat and smiled. I continued to wait …
If you are like Carlos, Sara, or Ben, here are a few tips from an old grad to you, an incoming freshman:
1. Go to class. Remember this education is not free!
2. Network. Get to know your professors and other professionals in your desired field. You will be amazed by how many people know someone, who knows someone else, who … you get the idea.
3. Have Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, and yes, even Plan D. Things don’t always go according to plan—be prepared mentally and professionally.
4. Keep your options open. Don’t limit yourself to one dream. Sometimes dreams have obstacles in the way. Some obstacles are meant to be overcome and some are put there for a reason—realize the difference.
5. Have fun! Whoever said high school was the best time of his or her life obviously never went to college.
6. Make new friends. Appreciate the diversity of college. Take time to get to know people. And if you’re still wondering, no one cares if you were the star athlete, prom queen, or class president.
7. Keep a level head. No one likes a college-know-it-all.
8. Stay focused. Remember you’re going to college by yourself. Take care of yourself. Learn for yourself. Graduate for yourself. It’s your journey – no one else’s.
9. Create your own filter. People will give you advice whether you ask for it or not. Your job is to use your filter to know what advice to “heed” and what to “graciously disregard.”
10. Remember your roots. No matter what your feelings are about where you grew up, remember it is the that raised you, educated you, and helped you get into college in the first place.
If this all sounds too familiar to you, good! It’s hard to admit, but sometimes your parents and teachers really are right. Then again, this is just more advice being given to you when you never really asked for it to begin with. If after you have filtered this article and chosen to graciously disregard most of the material, at least take heed to one piece of advice.
“Carlos, what do you want to be when you grow up?” I asked again.
Finally, he answered simply with that little grin on his face, “Me … I want to be me.”
Whatever path you choose, choose the path that allows you to be just that—you. And above all, be someone … something … someday.