Who are the handsome two above? Oh – that’s right! It’s Karen Gately and her tall son Jordan – a young man on the cusp of finishing high school and leaping into the adult world that lies beyond. Today’s personal blog looks at the contemplative process of deciding ‘what to be when one grows up’, and Karen shares her thoughts on what makes a career ( and a life) truly successful and joyful. Have you decided what you want to be when you grow up?
Our eldest son Jordan is steadily working his way through VCE, and the light at the end of the tunnel is fast approaching. The last couple of months have been a challenging time for Jordan with ‘big decisions’ about life beyond high school needing to be made. Leading up to VTAC applications closing, hours were spent by our family – pondering and exploring Jordan’s future career path and educational options. It has been a pretty painful process for Jordan to work out what he wants to do next year. Having never been an ‘I know what I want to be when I grow up’ type of kid, Jordan had few core ideas about his professional future to start career planning from. I don’t recall a time in his 17 years when he was excited about ‘becoming’ anything in particular. The closest we came to Jordan expressing a desire to ‘become’ something was his interest in developing into a professional basketball player. Although he was pretty keen on the idea, Jordan didn’t seem to be all that interested in striving against the odds to make it happen.
For my husband Kevin and I, it has sometimes been difficult to refrain from directing (or worse, dictating) the decisions Jordan should make. We know how important it is not to drive our son towards our ideals – he needs to be the originator of his own destiny. Yet faced with a void of inspiration (or at times engagement) from our son, it has been a hard thing to do. I’m happy to say that we have managed to ‘guide’ instead of ‘telling’, and Jordan has now made decisions and chosen options he is reasonably confident he will be happy with. As both his Dad and I have told him, he can always change direction – the average person does so five times in their working lives. What matters right now is that he takes ownership of his future and begins to focus on earning the opportunities that lie ahead of him.
The things I most want Jordan to understand and apply as he navigates his way through working life are:
1) A successful career is defined by more than just advances in management hierarchy or an achievement of financial goals. To me, a truly successful career is one that provides:
- A sense of achievement and contribution
- Opportunity to express our gifts and passions
- Enjoyment and fulfilled aspirations
- No regrets of lost opportunities
- Enriching relationships
2) Success is earned. The successful people I know typically:
- Know what they want to achieve
- Are clearly aligned with their purpose and are passionate about their work
- Invest energy into their work
- Have a positive outlook and unwavering faith in their ability to succeed
- Are resilient and tenacious in their drive to achieve the goals they set themselves.
3) Throughout our careers, opportunities present themselves which allow us to grow on a deep personal level – enabling us to become better people and leaders. I want Jordan to remember to learn from his mistakes and grow from his errors of judgment. There is no such thing as a perfect person and when things go wrong I want him to harness the opportunity; it’s largely just a matter of him choosing to do so.
4) Our ability to channel positive energy into achieving ambitions aligned with our desires ultimately drives our success. But as Jordan has already experienced, understanding and recognizing one’s own preferences and ambitions can be difficult. To begin to make such distinctions we must clarify our own definition of success. Knowing what success means to Jordan will allow him to set clear and tangible goals into which he can focus his energy and find fulfillment.
Our advice to Jordan has been to find a career direction that is likely to bring enjoyment and fulfillment. To recognise what will bring him fulfillment, he should look to things which catch his attention, attempt to understand what makes his heart sing and keenly observe what he feels passionate about. It can be as simple as noticing what he enjoys doing and what gives him energy – rather than taking it away. Most importantly, we encourage Jordan and our two other children to understand what makes them feel like they have made a positive difference to the world around them.