A child dreaming about being an astronaut. Young kids show a lot of creativity when they are asked what they want to be when they grow up. Illustration by Everette Cogswell

From a young age, children are often asked the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Responses can vary comically from being the president to wanting to be a mermaid because, as Franklin student Ada Hallstrom (12) says, “being a mermaid would be so cool.”  

I created a survey that asked Franklin High School students about their childhood dream job. The survey also inquired about whether their childhood dream is still their dream job today. 33% of surveyed participants said that their childhood dream job still interests them. The occupations that still interested participants were very achievable for the most part, in terms of finding work in a specific field. With the exceptions being two budding mermaids, a monkey, and a potential professional hockey player for the Detroit Red Wings. “Although probably unachievable now, I would love to play for them,” explained Rowan Horner (11) in reference to his hockey dreams. 

Those who no longer have an interest in fulfilling their childhood dreams cited a variety of reasons, the most common of which was simply losing interest in the job. Elliot Silva’s (11) childhood dream was to be a dirt bike rider “because I thought it looked cool… I don’t think I really had other reasons.” Silva doesn’t like dirt bikes anymore.

Another reason that people have steered away from their dream jobs is because of their unattainability and the difficulties that would come with them. Student Audrey Lynch’s (10) childhood dream job was to be a marine biologist because of her love for animals and the ocean. But her dreams are crushed because to be a marine biologist “you have to be really good at math and science and that is definitely not me.” Similarly, Scarlett Judson’s (12) dream was to be president of the United States; but now the realization has hit her that being president would be an awful job. 

Kids are asked about their dream job a lot by the adults in their lives, but is it really a good question to be asking? According to the New York Times, asking the question can lead children to believe that when they grow up, they will be defined by their profession and their worth, rather than their personality and their relationships. 

When I was a kid, I never knew how to respond to being asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I didn’t know what I wanted to be, and it somewhat bothered me because I thought that I was supposed to know. As Adam Grant, who wrote for the New York Times about the negatives of asking children about their dream jobs explains, a better alternative is to “invite them to think about what kind of person they want to be—and about all the different things they might want to do.” This opens the question up to not just their potential profession, but allows the child to be more open minded about their future. 

Nevertheless, childhood dream jobs are a fun topic to look at. The creativity that the responses can show are intriguing and charming. 

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