“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
It’s such a singular question in an age when our careers so rarely include just one line of work, sometimes including many in parallel. And when it’s not entirely clear at what point in our lives we count as having ‘grown up’.
Two friends, both notionally grown-ups, have talked to me recently about deciding what they want to be. They are asking hard questions about their own futures and what path they should pursue to get there. Both have an array of talents and skills, a track record across a few different sectors, and qualifications before that. In many ways, they are in great positions. But their interests don’t align naturally to one industry or one role, they have responsibilities, and they want to find a way to pursue their interests while meeting those responsibilities.
I’ve agreed to mentor one of these friends and help them find, and succeed in, a path that is rewarding in all the required ways. It’s not something I’ve done before, but I’m thinking about taking on a couple more mentees in similar positions. In the meantime, I thought I would share the tools I prepare for our sessions.
The first of these is about capturing the different avenues available to someone. This may sound like an unusual position, but we are in a world of growing self-employment and rising diversity in types and styles of work. Dell and the Institute for the Future suggested back in 2017 that 85% of jobs that will exist in 2030, don’t yet exist today. This says nothing of the jobs that exist today that might not exist, or might employ many fewer people in 2030, but that’s a different story. We are making up jobs all the time, so why shouldn’t people make up their own? Perhaps these friends have come to me because I did just that. I have now been an Applied Futurist for longer than I have been anything else.
The first tool I put together for my mentee is designed to simply map the different avenues available to them and get them to put some values against each. The first value is enthusiasm: does doing this type of work, or working in this particular line, bring you joy? Very Marie Kondo.
The second value is opportunity: can you realise a good income from pursuing this line of work? Can you win work against the competition?
The third value is credibility. Do you have a track record in this line or some other validation of it being your specialism?
I asked my mentee to give a score out of ten for each of these criteria to the various avenues in front of them. No single avenue of opportunity has to score highly in all three criteria: if there’s a big opportunity, it’s worth working towards credibility. But you really want it to be something you enjoy.
The results don’t give you a hard and fast answer about which direction to pursue. But I’m hoping they provide a platform for our next conversation. If you’re facing similar choices, feel free to download this template and use it.