When my boys were grade schoolers I loved spending time in their classrooms. One year, I volunteered as the “Picture Parent” — where I was responsible for sharing the work of great artists. At other times, I attended classroom celebrations. The children were always such an energizing force. I would always try to start a conversation about their very early aspirations concerning work and career, “What do you want to be when you are older?” As you can imagine, their answers had no bounds; astronauts, doctors, teachers, to be like “Mom” or “Dad”.
One particular answer struck me as a little unusual. One 6 year-old boy let me know that he wanted to be two things — a lawyer as his parents were both practicing attorneys — or a “pancake flipper”. This caught me a little off guard, but I was very curious as to how this highly specific interest developed. (His mother confirmed his early passion for all things related to cooking.) So, I inquired as why he chose that particular role. He responded very quickly and with great passion, “Because I’m really good at it”.
All I could muster in response was, “That’s an excellent reason.” Which it certainly was.
In the minds of children, the career horizon is limitless. Any spark of talent has the possibility of being realized and any interest explored. But, with the passage of time, we often leave behind one or two of these “sparks”. This happens slowly, yet surely — as we place certain aspirations, skills and talents on the shelf and close the “virtual” door.
Life happens. Work happens. We modify our career aspirations to meet the opportunities which are presented. Moving forward as best we can.
However, there is a cost. I believe there exists much untapped potential within our workforce. Among us are hidden innovators, entrepreneurs, artists, leaders and mentors. Many with dreams and pockets of untapped talent — locked behind the “virtual” doors that have closed. I would like to think that we can weave them back into our work lives somehow. But first we must pause and acknowledge them.
A career has many doors — and it is up to us to open them.
Have you left a career dream behind and rediscovered it in some way? Share your story.