Saturday, April 4, 2009

What does your toddler want to be when she grows up?

How would I explain my chosen profession to my two year old?
Me: "Well, sweetie, Mummy tells people all the good things the Government does for them."
Olivia: Blank look. "Can I have a chocolate frog?"

Every parent knows that preschoolers think in very black and white terms about what it is cool to be. A fairy, perhaps...maybe a ballerina...sometimes a racing car driver. The myriad career options out there isn't really something on their radar.

But Principals Australia would like to change that. They want to promote "career development concepts" to preschoolers in Australia's first childcare curriculum. According to The Australian, the concern of the organisation is that "little children rarely think beyond what their parents and relatives do for a living."

My father was a farmer who quit school at 15 and ended up working for the RTA. My mum has worked a million odd jobs (everything from being a fashion buyer to a library assistant) and been great at all of them. To be honest, when I applied to university, I knew I wanted to write and that was about it. I had never even heard of public relations as a career. I was gobsmacked to learn that all the work I did as a school captain would have been classified as "fundraising", "media liaison" and "event management".

Would early exposure to more information about career opportunities have changed where I now find myself? I doubt it. I'm good at what I do (to allow myself a pat on the back) and I think I would have got here one way or the other. Even when I'm not at "work" I practice my craft - because it's more than just a job to me...it's a passion.

So, while I don't think it can hurt opening kids' eyes to possibilities, I'm cautious about making them grow up too fast. I remember the pressure as a 13 year old to choose certain subjects because we were told what we did in the School Certificate and HSC would determine our life's path. I also have many friends who spent three or four years at university, studying for a career they had been pressured into choosing, who have never worked in their field of qualification simply because the fit just wasn't right.

With it now being widely recognised that we will have more than one "career" in our lifetime, why not let kids be kids and let them grow into a profession? We spend so much of our lives as workers, let's preserve the years of play and learning.