Looking for a career? Ask yourself 3 questions

What do you want to be when you grow up?

One of my jobs as an educator—a vocation where I spent twenty years teaching journalism and communication skills—was to encourage my students to think about the future. This isn’t easy with kids, especially high schoolers who rarely contemplate anything beyond the next Friday night.

Still, in my teacher mind, there was nothing more important than getting my students to think about life after school. We talked a lot about college, which I defined as any educational experience following high school graduation. I made it clear to my students that not everyone needed to attend a four-year university, but everyone had to have more training, because a high school diploma would not get them much in the working world.

You can’t be anything you want, but you can be many other things.

“You need to be thinking about your careers,” I’d say brightly. Then I’d see their eyes roll, since teachers had been asking them “What do you want to be when you grow up?” since they were in elementary school. But often the next statement from their educators would be, “You can be anything you want!” Which, of course, isn’t true, a point I would often make, one that would elicit furrowed brows and descent.

“What do you mean?” a child called out. “I’m going to play in the NBA.” At which point I had to make a decision. I have never wanted to be a person who crushed other people’s dreams, but, at some point, logic had to prevail. “Well,” I’d say to the pro-basketball hopeful, who more times than not was several inches shy of six feet. “that would be nice, but it takes a lot of hard work and certain physical attributes and athletic skills that not many people possess.”

Said child would look at me with suspicion. “But I can be anything I want.”

“With our current technology, can a blind person fly a plane?” I countered.

No matter how much I want to be an official in the NFL, I am too old and slow.

Heads shook around the room.

“I’ve been an amateur football official for almost four decades. I really wanted to be the first woman official in the NFL. I’m almost 65 years old. Anyone think the league will hire me now?”

Several students laughed.

“Of course not, because I’m too old and slow. Can Shaquille O’Neal be a thoroughbred racehorse jockey?”

Shaquille O’Neal could wish all he wanted about being a thoroughbred jockey, but he’s too big.

The kids thought about that for a moment.

“Shaq is a giant man. Put him on a horse and the poor animal wouldn’t get very far, so even if he wanted to be a jockey, he couldn’t.” I scanned the room, hoping they understood. “Here’s the thing, while we can’t be anything we want, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of things we can be. But how do we decide?”


“It’s really simple. Ask yourself three questions. What do you like to do? What are you good at? And what will someone pay you to do? Think about your hobbies. If you’re very fortunate, you will find a career that involves something you love. For example, if you like animals you could become a veterinarian. If you play the guitar, you could perform or teach music. If you like to cook you could become a chef.”

“I like cars,” a kid called from the back of the room.

“Great! You could go to school to learn to fix cars or maybe design them.”

“I like to bake!” another child said.

“Then maybe you could take business classes and open a bakery.”

“I still want to play in the NBA!” My young athlete squinted.

“That’s fine. Strive for that. But even if you do become a professional athlete, remember those careers are generally very short. Most players are only in the league for less than five years. What will you do then?”

I could see him thinking about it.

We all need to have a plan B.

“You need to have a plan B, in fact everyone does, because you will probably have several careers over the course of your lifetime. And you could certainly stay around basketball, if that’s what you love. You could be a coach or an athletic trainer or work in public relations or marketing. You could be a sports journalist.”

He nodded slowly.

“What do you like to do? What are you good at? What will someone pay you to do? Three of the most important questions you’ll ever ask yourself.”

Wild Horses on the Salt Cover 2



Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

7 thoughts on “Looking for a career? Ask yourself 3 questions

  1. sharonledwith says:

    Awesome post, Ms. Anne! I think high school teachers should starting asking these questions in grade nine. What happened to your LinkedIn button? Wanted to share this share-worthy post there too! Cheers!


  2. annemontgomeryauthor2013 says:

    I agree about the high school kids, and yet my communications classes were cut my last year of teaching. Sigh….I’ll check with Linkedin. Thanks for letting me know. 😉


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