Three Ways Childhood Shapes Our Career Paths

Childood and careers

If you could pinpoint one specific moment when you chose your career, when would that be? Were you 18 years old picking a college major? Have you known since you were young? Or are you still trying to figure it out?  

What was your decision based on? As we know, each one of us is heavily influenced by our surroundings, our past, and by our own personalities. Here are three ways our childhoods may have shaped our career paths.

1)  Childhood Shapes Career: Your Career is Something You Loved as a Child

As a child, did you love to tell stories, read, or write? Were you quiet or did you like to talk?  Did you lead your friend group or follow along? Did you enjoy helping, teaching, or taking care of other people?  When asked what you wanted to be when you grow up, what did your eight-year-old self say? 

It is interesting to think about ourselves as kids and reflect on how our lives match who we were then. Do you spend your days “playing with legos,” but it now looks like designing buildings as an architect?  Maybe you are stuck in a job you hate and are far away from your passions.  Our personalities influence the career paths we take. A recent study conducted by the National Library of Medicine shows that childhood experiences in family, school, and social life are linked to professional choices. But ultimately, other things come into play besides what we loved as a child.

2) Childhood Shapes Career: Your Career Is a “Safe Choice” for Family and Culture

Besides personality interests, your career path may also be based on the value your parents placed on being safe.  “Even the most well intentioned parents prefer that their children be ‘safe.’” Some parents emphasize safety so thoroughly that the lesson learned is “Safe is good. Risk is bad” (Flourish Summit).  Subconsciously, this may trickle down to choosing a career path because it means job security and financial stability.  You may choose the same career as a parent because it is the known and safe option. 

A career choice may also be safe from a cultural perspective. For example, some cultures value careers in the medical field or careers that require a college education.  Other cultures may think careers like being an attorney or CPA are too “hoity-toity” (Flourish Summit). 

3) Childhood Shapes Career: Childhood Financial Security or Insecurity

On any given day, you may interact with a high-level professional who grew up poor. Poverty can definitely be a hardship, but financial insecurity can also be a huge motivator in seeking a high-paying career.  Not only is poverty motivating, it can actually develop personality traits that help in business.  In Rich Habits, author Tom Corley identifies several qualities of individuals motivated by financial insecurity:

  • They are more willing to take risks. “Growing up poor forces you to take risks in the pursuit of wealth,” Corley states.
  • Growing up poor often means knowing how to work hard. Because things are not handed to you, you have no other choice but to work hard.
  • Growing up poor means that you don’t fear failure as much as others because you are more familiar with poverty, Corley says. 

Growing up in a financially secure household often has benefits including mentors, paid college education, or lessons in music or art.  This kind of exposure (and financial help) might drive someone to pursue a career that aligns more with one’s interests or talents over money. Choosing a helping profession such as a nurse or social worker may be based on early experience in medical settings or having the opportunity to volunteer as a family. 

Interestingly, not every kid raised in privileged households is motivated to be equally financially successful. Some possible factors could include:

  • Not exposed to financial hardship: Growing up in a wealthy household where their needs are always met has not prepared them for difficulties they may encounter in lower paying jobs.
  • Lack of consequences: Some children of wealthy parents may not face the same consequences for their actions. Facing consequences builds resilience. Resilience contributes to improved self-esteem, sense of control over life events, sense of purpose in life and improved employee interpersonal relationships.
  • Pressure and expectations: Some kids from wealthy parents may feel an overwhelming pressure to live up to their family’s success, which can be demotivating.
  • Identity and purpose: Some individuals may struggle to find their own identity and purpose when living in the shadow of their family’s wealth and success.

Careers are important and they should be fulfilling. But it’s important to realize that our jobs are just a part of who we are. Our true identities are a sum of  many other factors. We are: outdoor enthusiasts, history buffs, golfers, coffee aficionados, volunteers, friends to many, animal lovers, gardeners, parents, Netflix junkies, veterans, etc. Keep things in perspective and don’t let your career be your ONLY identity. 

At Artemis Consultants, we know that our clients are constantly evaluating how they chose a career path, if it is right for them, and where they will go next.  Please speak to one of our recruiters about our current openings and what is the best fit for you.

-Written exclusively for Artemis Consultants by Business Content Writer Mellody Melville

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