I hate Career Day

Photo Credit:   ginamccaleb   via   Compfight     cc

Photo Credit: ginamccaleb via Compfight cc

On Friday, Griffin’s school will be celebrating Halloween. Instead of costumes, the children were asked to come dressed in the “career apparel” of their choice. They have to make a small presentation for a social studies credit on the profession of their choice and how that person contributes to the committee.

Listen, I get it. I fully endorse structured costume experiences. You don’t want a costume free for all. No one wants kindergarteners going home with nightmares because they passed a fifth grader dressed up as Freddy Krueger.  

I fully endorse the channeling of Halloween energy into an educational experience.

But I hate career day and I hate the question, “What do YOU want to be when you grow up?”

I hated it the first time Griffin got asked, “What do YOU want to be when you grow up?” when he was barely old enough to understand the question. I still hate it when he gets asked today.

I hate that we push middle schoolers to pick a college and high school students to pick a major and college students to map out their entire career.

I don’t know if I’ve EVER been able to answer the question – What do you want to be when you grow up? I’m still not sure how to answer. In elementary school, I liked to sing. I also loved to write. As a young girl immersed in pop culture, my only role models were singers and actresses. I didn’t know any professional writers and I didn’t see any on television. (A post for another day.)

As I grew up, I realized loving movies wasn’t the same as wanting to be in them. I also realized I liked to sing but I didn’t LOVE to sing. By high school, I had developed a healthy interest in politics so I decided to pursue a degree in political science and then take the expected next step of law school.

I still love politics. I still love writing. Along the way, I developed a love of social media and graphic design and parenting and self-growth.

And I’ve had jobs that encompass all or some of these interests, but never felt like I had a CAREER because I was taught grown-ups with careers pursue ONE JOB from college to retirement.

Slowly, I’m accepting that that is not me. That it will never be me. And that is ok.

In fact, I’ve recently learned there is a name for people like me.


According to Emilie Wapnick and her fantastic Ted Talk, a multipotentialite is “a person who has many different interests and creative pursuits in life.”

We don’t have “one true calling” or one career. We thrive on learning and exploring and pursuing many different interests, passions, and careers.

And guess what? Multipotentialites are essential in our new economy and thriving in the technological age. The New York Times recently published a piece entitled, “Why What You Learned in Preschool Is Crucial at Work.” The author noted that the diverse interests and skills developed in preschool are a great example of what adults need to thrive in an ever-changing workforce.

Preschool classrooms, Mr. Deming said, look a lot like the modern work world. Children move from art projects to science experiments to the playground in small groups, and their most important skills are sharing and negotiating with others.

I would argue that all preschoolers are multipotentialites. I know mine is. Amos loves art and karate and costumes and board games. Griffin is the same way.

It’s only as they’ve grown older that I’ve noticed the emphasis on eliminating interests to pursue ONE JOB.

It makes both me and my children anxious.

I had literally shown Griffin the Emilie Wapnick’s Ted Talk the week before I had to break the news about career day.

His face crumbled. “I don’t want to PICK ONE!”

He has never latched onto one career or job. He never wanted to be a fireman or doctor. Since he was old enough to answer, he’s resisted the traditional answers to the constant questioning about what he wants to be when he’s grow up.

If he finds a job he likes, he just adds it to the list. For the past two years, the list has remained consistent.

He wants to be a scientist, an animator, and a LEGO Master Builder. They all sound awesome to me and I won’t be encouraging him to pick one job or one major or one career anytime soon.

So, THAT is what he will be dressing up as on Friday. We’ve got goggles and pencils and a LEGO Master Builder coat all ready and he’ll be wearing all three. 

After all, our world is changing and it has room for my little multipotentialite… even on Career Day.

P.S. Why I also have a beef with talent shows.

Stop asking my kid what he wants to be when he grows up.

Posted by Sarah Stewart Holland on Wednesday, October 28, 2015