i Editor's Letter: What do you want to be when you grow up?


Click to follow
The Independent Online


In her column yesterday, my colleague Victoria Summerley highlighted the surprising number of current vacancies in the horticulture sector, and the image problem gardening and related industries has with regards to recruitment.

Even our PM has contributed to the inaccurate notion that it is a career for academic failures.

One of her points really resonates: Our children can't all be doctors, lawyers, and bankers, she says, clearly having never met any first generation immigrant mother like mine. But she is right. Let's be honest, nor do they all aspire to be – regardless of their parents' wishes. Most children have no clue what they want to do – regardless of the potential obstacles or advantages of class, wealth, race, gender and geography. Many people fall into jobs (if they are lucky enough) by accident, and muddle through, hopefully evolving a career.

At some stage in our children's lives, the discourse changes imperceptibly from a jokey "so, what do you want to be when you grow up?" to an earnest, "so, do you know what you want to do yet?" to a despairing "what ARE you going to do with yourself?" I don't recall at my own school having any career discussions until my final year ... not even when choosing A-levels. When I told the university careers office I wanted to be a journalist, they sniggered. Exeter produced many City types.

When asked, too many children today respond blithely: "I want to be famous." There is little doubt that reality TV shows, be they notionally talent-based like The X-Factor or vehicles for self-abasement like Geordie Shore, have played a part in this. We need to balance their influence and find better role models; people who have worked really hard in "unsexy" worlds, doing meaningful jobs that contribute to our greater good. i welcomes your suggestions.