Childhood Dream Jobs Have Changed. Here’s How Parents Can Help.

5 min to read
Dream jobs for Kids

When you were a kid, what was it that you wanted to be when you grew up? Was it a professional athlete, a firefighter, or maybe an astronaut? How about a teacher or veterinarian or even a ballet dancer?

Our answers may say more about the eras of our childhoods, how and where we grew up, and the pop culture we were exposed to, than about us as individuals. For instance, back in the 1990s, it seemed like every kid wanted to be a marine biologist after the release of Free Willy.

So, with that in mind, what do you think is influencing today’s kids when they think about what they want to be when they grow up?


What Is Shaping Today’s Childhood Dream Jobs?

A 2021 survey of 1,000 teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17, conducted by Wakefield Research for Junior Achievement USA, found that 60% of respondents were more interested in starting their own businesses than in working traditional 9-to-5 jobs. Further, a Harris Poll of 3,000 children, between the ages of 8 to 12, conducted for the LEGO Group in 2019, revealed that “YouTuber” was the first choice of 29% of them. And, it wasn’t exactly a one-off. That survey closely followed on the heels of a similar poll of 1,000 children, aged 6 to 17, conducted in 2017 by U.K.-based travel company First Choice, which also found that as many as 52% of the young respondents were looking forward to YouTube-based careers. The results of all three surveys reflect an unsurprising influence on Generation Z: The Age of The Influencer.

According to the Wakefield survey, 37% of teens cited social media influencers as their inspiration for their future careers. Another 45% said that they were inspired by current business owners.

So, why do so many kids today want to become YouTubers instead of police officers or princesses? Well, that’s complicated.


What Kids Want to Be When They Grow Up Is Not So Simple Anymore

The first thought many have after hearing that a significant percentage of teens aspire to be YouTubers is that their main motivation is money. Some YouTubers earn millions from their videos. But, according to the First Choice study, money is not everything for today’s teens. Instead, money ranks fourth in priority after citing the opportunity to indulge their creativity, be famous or influential, and express themselves.

The real shift away from more “traditional” career aspirations can be attributed significantly to the instability of job prospects over the years. Just look at the results of the 2020 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Dream Jobs Report. The study reveals that because today’s teenagers have lived through so much change in their lives, literally half (50%) have a deep sense of uncertainty about which traditional professions will even exist when they grow up.

In other words, teens are attracted to the jobs where they can see themselves being successful on their own. Being a YouTuber or entrepreneur, to them, has just as much potential to be a steady job choice where they can be their own boss, find meaning in the work that they do, and make the kind of impact on the world that they want to.


How to Support Career Skills for Kids

In the same vein, teens aspiring to be a YouTuber or entrepreneur might actually be uncertain about their career choices instead, and they are still trying to figure out what it is that they want to do. Both careers cover a wide arena of skills, niches, and interests that allow for a lot of growth and potential.

Regardless of what kind of career, there are certain entrepreneurial skills that parents can start fostering in their kids now that can help them succeed while they are still figuring things out.


Top Skills for Entrepreneurial Kids’ Dream Jobs

  • Self-Confidence and Presentation Skills
    Knowing how to communicate in a concise, assured, and clear fashion will be applicable at virtually every step of any future career from their first job interview onward. Parents can help improve their child’s presentation skills by encouraging them to “become the teacher” and present what they have learned in school to the family. Giving them the chance to present their ideas and showing an active interest in what they have to say can build the foundation for an entrepreneurial level of confidence.

  • Time Management, Scheduling, and Planning
    Success anywhere—whether it be in a small business, YouTube, or while they are still in school—is often attributed to good time-management skills. No matter where they go in life, being able to effectively schedule and plan ahead are two workplace habits that are valuable in any aspect of life. Balancing school, homework, hobbies, and extracurricular activities are a perfect introduction to time management. Parents can instill good habits by helping their child create a time-management plan, and giving them the ability to schedule their days in a way that works best for them.

  • Unique Skills
    Discovering their niche is one of the most valuable skills entrepreneurs have. What a person is uniquely interested in can help them narrow their focus and learn how to be competitive in the job market. While it may not always be readily apparent how, every skill can be marketable in its own way. Parents can help their child find their unique skills by giving them opportunities to explore different activities and subjects. Being able to try things out in a safe environment where they are allowed to fail allows them to more easily find the things that can give work personal meaning.


Nurturing Childhood Dream Jobs

Just as Connections Academy parents play a role in their child’s education, parents are also one of the first influences on what kids want to be when they grow up. By providing opportunities for early career exploration for kids and opening a dialogue around the variety of professions in the world, parents can give kids a chance to discover and grow the passions that they will carry with them through life.

The words we use may change, but when it comes down to it, kids’ dreams of becoming a YouTuber or entrepreneur are not that far off from their parents’ childhood dreams of becoming an actor or musician; they both require creativity and dedication and instill values and virtues that will benefit them as they progress into their eventual career. So, do not be so quick to dismiss.

While it is impossible to know what kinds of careers will be out there by the time they are grown up, curiosity, exploration, and creativity never change. So, whether parents have an adventurous, artistic, or athletic child, they should ask their kids not only what they would like to be when they grow up, but also what they would like to do. Parents should share with them what they love about their jobs and encourage the whole family to share what they wanted to be when they were young. Discovering why kids want a certain job can go a long way in helping parents guide future career aspirations for their kids.

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