Friday, 14 November 2014

Four Jobs to Stop Adults Asking: 'What do you want to be when you grow up?'

'What do you want to be when you grow up?'

I hated that question.  Along with:  'How are you doing at  school?' and 'Got a girlfriend yet?' these are the most intrusive and embarrassing questions an adult can ask of a young person and yet they ask away.  It's like they feel they have a right to be so nosey.  If you have a large family, like I do, every time you meet an older relative they ask like no one has asked before.

I swore as an adult I would never ask that trio of trouble and so far, I never have. If I get a positive response from this blog I may supply tips on dealing with questions two and three.

My Childhood Pain

When I was young I had no idea what I wanted to be.  No career idea, no job thoughts, no plan to achieve what I was expected to achieve.  That's part of the pain, when you're a child your mind should be open to every possible opportunity, yet every adult seems to think you should have a career plan mapped out.  Well, that's how it felt to me.  I always felt like a failure because I didn't have a plan, then there was sense of judgement if you don't give the 'right' answer.

For me the world was and always is huge.  It is brimming over with all kinds of jobs, vocations and livelihoods.  Children start off with teacher, doctor, nurse, policeman etc. because that's all they see plus their relatives' jobs, then things get complicated when maybe their eyes are opened to some of the opportunities and those opportunities don't match the expectations of others.

I hate expectations. They should be banned.  Enough.  Back to the point.  I learnt how to stop adults in their tracks.  Give them a job that jams their brains leaving you to carry on with your life.

They are all sound and good jobs, if you fancy one, or it is your chosen career, excellent, they just puzzle adults when a young person comes out with one as an answer.  Now choose your weapon.


The job is counting tree-rings to date wood.  It's a bit more complicated than that because it's often used to date very old wooden things.  Check out the links below for how it works.  It is often used in archaeological and environmental research.

It's an excellent adult-stopper because most people have never heard of it.  Say 'dendrochronologist' and their mouths will go slack.   It sounds incredibly technical, meaning the young person saying it must be far cleverer than the adult asking the questions.  Important thing to note:  adults like to think they're cleverer than children - stupid I know - just because you've been on the planet longer than others doesn't make you smarter.  Learning, not age brings wisdom.


This is a trip-trap.  The adult will immediate think airline or fighter pilot and say so.  You can then tell them they're wrong.  You mean harbour or river pilot.  This is the expert in the local conditions of a river, port or channel who takes over the navigation of ships whose masters don't know the area.

This was the one I used to bring adults up short.  I live by the sea and see the pilot-boats going to large vessels to guide them into the tricky harbours near my home, that's where I came up with the idea.  If it was good enough for Mark Twain, it was good enough for me.

If you really want to turn the screw pick some exotic place to ply your trade, like the Suez Canal or Panama.  Since the Internet is international you may be from those wonderful places.  Where I live has challenging double tides, in Canada they have some very high tides with strong currents.  If you live in a land-locked city or country all the better to confuse.

A Middle Manager

This one is another mind games answer.  There is nothing wrong with being a middle manager.  It's a person who has risen to a position of responsibility over others with more layers of management above.  It is not Managing Director or CEO, but it's getting there.  That's the key to confuse.  Most people will achieve middle management with the intention of rising further perhaps in the same company or as a stepping stone to greater responsibility elsewhere.

If you tell an questioning adult that's your ambition, to achieve middle management and no more it will floor them.  It may lead to more questions about why you don't want to aim higher.  Mention 'work-life-balance' and 'achievable goals' and they'll probably run, especially if you're about ten.

Below is a link to the Dilbert website.  Look for the pointy haired boss.  He's a manager with all the worst traits.  Jargon from him will melt the most persistent questioner.


This is a person who investigates mythical creatures often with the aim of discovering whether they are real or not.  It's a cross between a researcher and an adventurer.  Image investigating the Loch Ness Monster, that's cryptozoology.  Now some cryptozoologists are hype-generating publicity hounds others are professional scientists discovering real creatures that are so hard to find in the wild the only clues are in myths of local people.

It's a good one if you want to travel the world, or, like spending time reading books in libraries.  Like the tree-ring counter it's a big word and few people know the job exists - very useful.


I hope this has helped.  If you actually want to be a hair stylist, pop star, reality celebrity, pro-gamer, YouTube Millionaire, post man, sewage expert, tea-taster, or whatever, go for your dream.  Me, I'm an engineer who dreams of being a writer.

Don't let the judgement of others get you down.

When I once admitted my dream to a teacher he laughed at me and made fun of me in front of the whole class - I've never viewed teachers the same since that day.  Yep, maybe he was right, I'm an engineer who still dreams, but no one has the right to do that.

If you're an adult, don't ask these questions, try: 'How's it going?'  Listen a bit more, or if you're me, overwhelm them with a collection of facts, it at least saves them from being asked those dreaded questions.  Ultimately respect the answer you get.

Useful Links

The University of Arizona Explanation of Dendrochronology - An excellent summary of the job with some tech bits to learn to scare adults even more. - Office life, nearer the truth than it should be.

Found a site about Cryptozoology - It's a bit overloaded with banner ads so you can see the worse side of it too.
13 extinct animals rediscovered - This is the science side of cryptozoology.