Ask the grumpies: What were your childhood career aspirations?

Leah asks:

As kids, what were your career aspirations and why?

#1:  I wanted to be a biologist because I liked science and water and so on.  Then I saw a NOVA episode on Nancy Wexler and Huntington’s Chorea and wanted to be a genetic engineer.  Then I did an internship in genetics in high school and realized it was insanely boring.

#2:  I thought I might like chemistry, and I also thought that I’d like to be an astronaut and a rock star.  (I did not become those things.)

What about you, grumpy nation?

29 Responses to “Ask the grumpies: What were your childhood career aspirations?”

  1. NZ Muse Says:

    Famous author of novels

    Graphic designer

    Psychologist

    (none of which really married up well with my actual skills/temperament)

  2. Solitary Diner Says:

    Writer, lawyer, teacher. I do a bit of writing at work and on my blog, and I do a lot of teaching at work, so those two weren’t terribly far off. Definitely not a lawyer, though, nor do I find anything legally related to be the least bit interesting. I think I was just impressed by the glamour of LA Law when I was a kid.

  3. NessieMonster Says:

    I wanted to be a ballerina, a politician, or even the Prime Minister! Or an artist. Loved science but am not sure when I knew what a scientist was.

  4. CG Says:

    Farmer, architect, artist/designer, mystery novel writer, musician. Have many times thought about chucking the current job to become one of these things.

  5. gasstationwithoutpumps Says:

    I wanted to be a pure mathematician, and I kept to that goal through an MS in math, when I switched to computer science. I ended up as an engineering professor—using a little math but at the very applied end of computer science. I’ve taught VLSI design, technical writing, bioinformatics, and analog electronics (among other topics). Currently, I mainly teach analog electronics to bioengineers.

  6. bogart Says:

    jockey, veterinarian (probably large-animal, to the extent I was aware this was a choice), professional equestrian, lawyer, professor, designer/developer of accessible housing.

    • bogart Says:

      Oh, oops — came back to see other replies and just saw that you asked about childhood. By that definition, we probably need to stop after equestrian, certainly after lawyer (heck, maybe after vet). But if I get a second childhood, the accessible housing one can go in there.

  7. Nanani Says:

    A dinosaur (not a paleontologist, an actual dinosaur)
    An astronaut
    A lab scientist (but then I found out it’s actually mostly grant writing and computer programming)

  8. becca Says:

    An artist. I probably went through brief phases of lawyer or gymnast, but mostly it was artist. Until I was about 13 and needed a “more practical” and/or “more prestigious/intellectual” answer and started saying biomedical researcher.

  9. delagar Says:

    I wanted to be a forest ranger. I still think I’d make a good one.

  10. chacha1 Says:

    When I was a little kid I dreamed of glamour jobs like “ice skater” and “concert pianist.” :-)

  11. Taylor Lee @ Yuppie Millennial Says:

    Anesthesiologist, famous author, geneticist, entrepreneur. Really what I wanted to be was a professional rich person and had some mediocre ideas of what jobs would get me there.

  12. jjiraffe Says:

    I wanted to be a lawyer. In the movies and TV shows I watched growing up, my favorite female characters were lawyers. They were mostly tough, smart, and doing good things (clearing innocent people, taking on corrupt companies).

    I stayed on the law school path through college, and even took the LSATs. But at the end of the day, I didn’t want to take on the huge loans necessary for me to go to law school.

    • Katherine Says:

      I also wanted to be a lawyer and took the LSATs in college (and watched a lot of legal TV shows, although I wanted to be an immigration lawyer and not a trial lawyer). But I knew I wouldn’t like law school, and so I went to math grad school instead.

      Before wanting to be a lawyer, I wanted to be a dentist, then a supreme court justice, and had a brief dalliance with the idea of moving to the other country where I am a citizen to be a professional violinist.

  13. dmacdumes Says:

    It changed almost every year in elementary school: an ornithologist, a meteorologist, a mineralogist, an astronomer, an Egyptologist. The last one took and that’s the field where I did my PhD. But it didn’t pay well at all, so I ended up as a web developer who can read Coptic and classical Greek where necessary.

  14. Debbie M Says:

    Woo, science!

    For me: Teacher, from when I started school until they assigned me to student teach in a second-grade classroom. I taught my little brother to read when I was six and he was four. I taught my little sister trig.

    I college I thought I should look for a higher paying job. I eliminated every job I could think of and started education classes. I wanted to teach 5th or 6th grade and teach all the subjects. But second grade? I was so over long and short vowels! And I realized if I became a teacher, they could make me teach kindergarten and they could wait until the week before class started.

    Went to grad school in sociology thinking of teaching college; quit with the masters. (What I’m good at is statistics and demography, which I find boring. What I find interesting is actually going into alien cultures and discovering interesting things, which I find super scary and for which I do not have the social skills.)

    Got certified in secondary math–no one would hire me because I didn’t look like a good disciplinarian. (I looked 12. For a pretty long time.)

    Ended up working in a college. Occasionally got to edit tests, textbooks, and grand proposal abstracts to be more readable. Then became a liaison between programmers and users of a complicated degree audit system–so I did finally get to teach. Something slightly less boring than long versus short vowels!

    Other ideas: computer programmer (I have a logical brain, but not the patience to deal with de-bugging, plus most programs for hire seem boring), psychology theorist (rationalization is my superpower), writer (oops, suck at fiction), and retiree.

  15. crazy grad mama Says:

    Astronaut! I actually applied when NASA had an open call last year, as a gift to my younger self more than anything. They sent a polite form-letter no, of course.

    For a long time I wanted to be a teacher, because my mom had been a teacher and because people said I was good at it.

  16. Omdf Says:

    Doctor! My parents vociferously discouraged this. They wanted me to be a history or English professor because that is what they wished they had done. It took forever for me to grow a pair and stand up to them.

  17. Mrs PoP Says:

    Accountant, then actuary, and then briefly in high school, a civil engineer with the goal to design a whole new city based around efficient and environmental friendly public transportation options.

  18. Matthew Healy Says:

    I wanted to be a scientist because science fascinated me. After some decades of making my living as a scientist, it still fascinates me.

    Only surprise has been, instead of doing some sort of physical science in academia, my career has mostly been drug discovery and development at industrial R&D labs.

  19. Leah Says:

    I distinctly remember wanting to be a waitress when I was 7 or so. I also wanted to be a teacher for a bit, a doctor . . . the various careers kids think of.

    I was really aimless in middle school and high school but did NOT want to be a teacher. That worked out well, obviously.

    In retrospect, I honestly didn’t know enough about which jobs were available and how to go about getting jobs. I worked the same two jobs from age 15 until the end of college (and added a tech job at my college), and I didn’t want to do any of them. I wish I had cast a broader net with jobs to discover what I did like, as it took me a good chunk of my 20s to figure it out. I really should have landed on teaching earlier, as I loved tutoring and TA’ing in high school and college.

    • Leah Says:

      PS I saw that NOVA episode in high school! I really enjoy genetics still. I thought about becoming a genetic counselor when I became a teacher — honestly, I picked teacher school because it was 2 years versus 4 to get everything done for being a genetic counselor. I think I made the right decision.

  20. Zenmoo Says:

    I wanted to be a lab scientist in a lab coat, then as a teenager I thought perhaps a journalist. In my senior year I told my parents I’d do a PhD in history & write books.

    I ended up (very happy) as an engineer working first with mathematical models & then water infrastructure. Don’t know who was most surprised- me or my parents.

  21. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    A doctor (out of spite because a cousin once said he’d be a doctor and I could be his nurse), a genius, Bruce Lee, and a veterinarian.

    I’m currently none of these things.

  22. Beth Says:

    I never had the first clue about what I wanted to do. I was a girl scout and in 4th grade (in the early 80s) we were supposed to pick a badge that represented our future career, and by default I picked household helper or something. My mom was a SAHM but I didn’t really WANT that life, I just didn’t have the foggiest idea what interested me.

    Of course what I do now – software stuff – didn’t exist. And I’m still astonished today when I learn what kind of jobs are out there in the corporate world – even after 20+ years, there are TONS of jobs I have no idea about! And I would still stop working in a heartbeat if money were no object, and go back to hanging out and reading and being social.


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