When I grow up I’m going to be…

 student_1980481a www telegraph co uk ALMAY student thinking

Photo: ALAMY telegraph.co.uk

 What is the right age to decide what you want to do with your life?

While we are still at school we are required to make choices that start channelling us down a path – we choose the subjects that we are going to continue studying, generally following a humanities, business or science stream.

But can we really know at that age what type of work will suit us and that we’ll find fulfilling as we earn our living?

Study what you love

imagesCABRTG0Q www freeimageslive co uk Mathematics large size

Image: freeimageslive.co.uk

I was told to study what I loved; for me, that was maths. So at university I majored in mathematics (it was pretty much the only subject in its many manifestations that I signed up for!).

At the end of my studies I wanted a career in management in a large corporation, and was ambitious enough to aspire to senior levels. I devoured management books, to keep abreast of the latest management fads, and read Business Review Weekly (BRW) cover to cover, to discover the secrets of success from senior business executives.

My background in mathematics steered me into the information technology (IT) profession, and even if I didn’t quite make it to the lofty levels of executive management, I have had a successful and rewarding career working for a number of large corporations.

Other interests uncovered

Over time, though, I discovered other interests:

  • On taking up learning French I found that I love using the French language, and am keen to learn more languages
  • I love to travel and feel that I am at my best when I’m discovering new places (or revisiting old favourites)
  • I found that discussions about politics and international events bring out my (very) opinionated side!

Other career possibilities

What do you think I could have chosen to study or pursue as a career that utilises these interests? These are the ones that I’ve come up with, and that I think I would have enjoyed:

  • Every time I see a foreign film with subtitles I muse that language studies at university could have led me to being a translator
  • I could have joined the Department of Foreign Affairs and worked in the diplomatic corps if I had studied international relations or political science
  • Today when I fly I wonder whether travelling the world as a flight attendant on an international airline would satisfy my love of travel

United Nations building NYC JunJul 2009 035 cropped

The job of my dreams however, the one that brings all my interests together, is to work
for the United Nations; it could be as a translator, a diplomat, a commentator/ analyst, a project manager, or any other job associated with that organisation – perhaps even as a blogger!

Photo: Anne Mellino

It’s never too late

It’s never too late to pursue another career. In Australia, we are able to change our profession relatively easily – in fact, we are told to expect to have a number of careers in our working lives.

For lifestyle reasons, I recently trained as an editor and proofreader. I now freelance as a copyeditor and writer, specialising in corporate websites, and I blog as well. I love my new profession!

I don’t have any regrets: I can learn languages (next on the list are Spanish and Danish); I travel regularly; and I edit and write for the web.

And now, I am putting my interests to use in a number of ways by:

  • setting up a blog called Language Pairs, with my co-founder, Emmanuelle
  • writing articles in French and editing English articles (for Language Pairs)
  • making full use of the internet to plan and book travel, and then travelling
  • expanding my knowledge of another culture as a francophile

That’s not too bad, is it?

Do you think we need to decide what we are going to do with our lives while we are too young? Do you dream of doing something else? Have you discovered interests over time that you would love to turn into your profession? Let me know!

This article first appeared in French on the Language Pairs website.

Photo: ALAMY, telegraph.co.uk
Anne Mellino


2 thoughts on “When I grow up I’m going to be…

  1. That’s all true and inspiring, but unfortunately out in the real world it’s pretty difficult to convince people that you are more than what your university degree trained you for. There are many barriers to changing careers when you are “of a certain age” and it is rare to find an employer willing to let you out of the box of your defined job title. But, it’s worth the effort – you just have to be your amazing self and approach every new interest with enthusiasm and a willingness to make mistakes, brush yourself off and keep going.

    Me? I should have worked with children in some capacity or in one of the caring professions where I could feel at the end of each day that I had made someone’s life just a little bit happier.

    What you are doing is fun and interesting and way, way, better than a mathematics career!

    • I’m told that, in France, it’s exactly as you have described it and that it’s impossible to change careers there. Yes, it’s not easy, and you may end up having to make your own job. But working for yourself has its benefits…

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