Remember how easy it was to answer that question when you were six? Not anymore. In fact, if you're starting university next fall, you'll have to figure it out pretty quickly.
What an enormous responsibility for someone seventeen years old, or younger! How do you choose? Where should you start? What if you end up in the wrong post-secondary program and miss a chance for the perfect career-forever?
The good news: you can't. It's impossible. In fact, it is becoming more and more common for graduates to choose careers outside of their original field of study. It is just too difficult to identify your lifelong career at the age of seventeen.
Terry Peach is the Manager of Organisation and Staffing for GE Canada. "The key to career success," says Peach, "is finding something that you enjoy doing-something you can be passionate about." You might think about taking a general arts degree in order to keep your options open, and that's a great idea-but only if you think you'll enjoy arts. If you'd rather study microbiology, or film history, or abstract algebra, go for it!
Imagine my surprise when of the 12 people in a training class for my new technical sales job-a job for which I knew I was qualified because the posting said "engineering" and that's what I had studied-only half were engineers! Of the others, one had a math background, one had biology, three had studied business, and one even had a history degree. Yet here we were, doing the exact same job. Obviously our employer was attracted to something in each of us beyond what we studied in school.
Employers are impressed with people who have a solid base of transferable skills, whether you learned them in school, through hobbies or on other jobs. According to Peach, skills such as leadership, the ability to influence others, project management, teamwork, customer service and problem solving can be learned indirectly while you're in university or college, and can be the key to a wide variety of jobs.
This is not to say that you can just cruise your way through school and the jobs will fall into your lap. On top of doing your best in school and learning as much as you can about whatever you're studying, there are lots of things you can do to enhance your skill base and make yourself more attractive to a wider range of employers. "Get involved beyond the classroom," says Peach, "[in areas such as] extracurricular activities, volunteering and jobs. Take on leadership roles and do things that show initiative-willingness to go above and beyond-and find ways to learn from these experiences."
Don't spend too much time wondering "what do I want to be when I grow up?" There will be plenty of opportunity to explore many subjects during your post-secondary education, both in and out of the classroom, and every experience will enhance your marketability in the eyes of your future employer.