What do you want to be when you grow up? We have all been asked this question and we ask the same one to all little kids we meet. The answers can be wildly different; from doctor to actor, from lawyer to painter.
Then, the situation changes dramatically. At the age of 16, the question becomes ‘What do you want to study at university?’
This is a significant change. Instead of asking young people to think long-term, we indirectly force them to be short-sighted. Is the university an end in itself or is it the platform to an interesting career?
Currently, the majority of students study a subject at university and only later they understand the job prospects and their fit with the area they have chosen. They are often disappointed.
I strongly encourage them to DO THE OPPOSITE;
- Identify what career they want to follow first.
- Then, choose a degree to make it happen.
In this way, students will also have a clear understanding in their mind of ‘Why’ they study, not only of ‘What’ they study.
It is a significant paradigm shift but a necessary one; especially during these challenging times of high unemployment and increased student debts.
University is not an end in itself; it is the means to have meaningful careers and fulfilling lives.
So let’s encourage the young people to think big and long-term. So, next time you meet teenagers, paraphrase the question that inspired all of us when we were kids. Ask them what they want to become. Encourage them to dream and get a plan to make it happen.
Korina Karampela is the founder of b4iapply, author of 2 books, coach and speaker. She has worked as senior pharmaceutical executive for 12 years and has an MBA from MIT Sloan. Her blog b4iapply is recommended by The Guardian for professional development.