Students I meet, who are undecided on a career path, often don’t know where to start. Trying to come up with what you want to do for the rest of your life is certainly a daunting task! Moreover, when you hear about someone’s career success that you admire, doesn’t it just seem to make sense? How did they get to that point and how can you get there too?

There are four key areas to think about when envisioning your future career: how will the career path you choose encompass your (1) interests, (2) values, (3) skills, and (4) personality traits. Focus on using your childhood as a starting point when brainstorming career options with these key areas in mind.

I recently attended an event at Chicago Ideas Week where David Korins (award-winning production designer from Broadway’s Hamilton) and Zac Posen (well-known fashion designer) spoke. I heard a theme arise as the two discussed their career beginnings. David mentioned that, as a child, he loved to rearrange the furniture in his bedroom over and over again. Flash-forward to school, he had his mind made up on being an actor. After dealing with rejection from auditions, he decided to try his hand at building sets. This was his “ah-ha moment” when he discovered his passion for set design, connecting it back to rearranging furniture as a child. Zac stressed that you should let children play and experiment because in that playtime, passions can be found. Zac’s father is an artist and encouraged him to explore. Zac found his love of design while making doll dresses out of his grandparents’ yarmulkes and scraps of material in the trash. This was the very beginning of what inspired his career as a fashion designer.

After hearing both designers talk about how their career aspirations were cultivated when they were young, it got me thinking about other examples. My brother, for instance, loved Legos and any toy where he could build something mechanical. Now he is an engineer where he creates and tests jet engines. My friend Holly explained that she knew she wanted to be a counselor because she enjoyed being a listening ear to her friends growing up.

After reading this, spend some time reflecting on what brought you joy as a child. It could bring you closer to your “ah-ha moment.”

Here are some questions to get you started:

  • Interests: How did you spend your time as a child? Did you have any hobbies or favorite school subjects? The way we choose to spend our time as a child can uncover interests that have not been encouraged in awhile due to school and work responsibilities.
  • Skills: What were some of the skills that came easier to you in school? Did you participate in any activities outside of school where you developed other skills? Strengths are revealed earlier in life since strengths come more naturally.
  • Values: Did you enjoy being competitive playing sports? Did you volunteer because you value contributing to society? Thinking about the activities you chose to participate in can help you connect to the values that are important to you.
  • Personality Traits: Did you enjoy hanging out with a large group of friends or prefer one-on-one? Did you structure your time to do homework early and then play, or did you prefer to play first and then do homework at the last minute? Personality traits might be tougher to reflect on, but the Career Center offers the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment to help you identify your personality preferences. Since your personality traits do not change from when you are a child, understanding your innate preferences now can help you narrow in on a satisfying career path.