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What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?
By now, you’ve been asked this hundreds of times. You’ve probably asked yourself this from many kids when you’ve introduced them. It’s a simple question. Straight-forward. clean up Brief… What do you want to be when you grow up? As an adult, being asked this ‘kid’s question’ will probably bring a smile to your face. But… you know what? Can you answer that?
During nearly six years as an Air Force officer and then more than twenty years as a CEO, I have asked hundreds of subordinates this question. Granted, I could use more ‘adult’ language, such as: Where do you see yourself in 10 years? What is your ultimate job goal? Tell me about your business plans. Or, what is your career path? No matter how you phrase it, the question remains the same: What do you want to be when you grow up?
You might be surprised to hear the easiest answer I get – “I don’t know”.
So, I sharpened my quill, learned from my past, and developed a new full-proof method to get to the bottom of this ever-important question. Once a new employee has been on the job for about a month, enough time to “know the lay of the land” and feel comfortable in their desk chair, I walk them through their environment. The conversation is usually brief; But a friendly, non-confrontational and unofficial feeling. After asking about their day or their family, I’d like to ask them, “I’d like to schedule a meeting with you to talk about your career goals and how I can help you reach them. What’s your schedule like?”
A week later, when the employee joins me in my office, I send the script from my head that I have delivered several times. I try to personalize it. To make it sound original. Because, while it’s an often-watched replay for me, it’s usually a ‘first’ for them. Therefore, I carefully explain that I see it as my highest duty, as Chief Executive, to help them achieve their goals. I give examples of side-project types, special tasks, or larger responsibilities that I can assign them to give them the experience they need to get one step closer to their goals. I outline the education, training, certifications, degrees or license that will make them more professional and build their future resume. After laying it all out, methodically, I sit quietly in my chair and use these specific words: So… what do you want to be when you grow up?
The answer does not come quickly; But, it comes… Usually, in most cases, most of the time, there is an overwhelming answer… After a week of preparation and reflection, the employee presents his findings to the boss: “I don’t know.”
Expect this result; Still, never wavering from my goal of always getting the best out of every employee, I gently tell them to “sit there and think about it. Let’s do this together.” A long silence hangs in the air. It was uncomfortable for me. Have you ever seen another person’s face while they were in their innermost thoughts? The deepest interpretation of who they are and who they want to be? I know this is a crucial moment to which I must give my full attention; But, though I have a big title in the room, I’m just window dressing. They are deep in thought somewhere. It is difficult to give my full attention because I have nothing to ponder on the matter. So, I fake it until they are willing to bring me back into their thinking. I usually try to put on my best poker-face to hide the fact that I’m really thinking about other things on my to-do list… all so I don’t break down first.
This is their moment. They should speak first. They should give themselves a meaningful decision that will guide them in the future. I’m just a sounding board. And, then, a catalyst to help them reach their goals.
Make it personal. Make it yours.
An interesting story? Maybe. But, what does that mean to you? Do you condemn this article about rockstar weddings and heaps of others on Hollywood rehab? Or, do you take it two by four upside down? I humbly recommend the latter.
You’re not getting any younger. Now is the time to decide, plan and act. As the old saying goes, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” So, will life take you on a meandering journey that ebbs and flows this way and that with you as a mere pacifist spectator? Or, will you grab life by the throat, put it up against a wall and make it clear: you have career goals – better not to let life get in the way of reaching them? Again, I humbly recommend the latter.
The first thing to decide is whether you want to accept your goal. Decide what you want to be when you grow up. dream big But, likewise, keep your goals constant. If you’ve passed your prime or are now in it, a professional sports career may have already passed you by. Likewise, decide what you are willing to put up with and how long you are willing to wait. How many steps are you willing to take along the way? For example, if cardiac surgeon is your true desire, are you willing to complete your degree with high honors, apply to countless medical schools, relocate, give up your entire life to study, do internships, residencies and fellowships? 10 year prospect or more? If not, what would bring you equal happiness or self-satisfaction? The first step is the hardest. decide Find a quiet room or a scenic view to spend some time with the hardest thing on the planet you’ll ever try to figure out – you!
The decision is the hardest part, but certainly not the longest. In fact, it is the smallest. Once you have a goal, create a plan to achieve it. desire Being a marketing director is not good enough. Do you have a marketing degree? If not, get one. Have you worked in marketing? start What does your portfolio of previous marketing campaigns look like? Don’t have one? Build it.
No matter what your career choice, everyone has training, experience, awards, milestones and resume builders. Decide which ones will look good on your resume and start accumulating them. If I may, let me ask one last question: What do you want to be when you grow up? Plus, his sister’s question: Are you willing to do whatever it takes to get there?
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