/ Money, Parenting

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Dream job

Today’s 12-25 year olds have very different career goals to those of their counterparts 50 years ago.

As a child, many of you probably had wild dreams of what you wanted to be when you grew up. Perhaps you wanted to be an astronaut, having been inspired by the moon landings, or maybe you hoped to become a footballer, spurred on by a sporting triumph? But how would those dreams differ from today’s youth?

Being a bit of a tomboy and a big fan of Top Gun to boot, I initially aspired to be the first female Red Arrows pilot – I was pipped to the post on that one. Growing up close to a Royal Air Force base, I seemed to be forever spotting some impressive noisy aircraft dancing through the sky and I suppose I was very influenced by what was around me.

And it seems today’s social-media-obsessed, fashion-conscious world has a big impact on the future working generation’s goals, too.

Dream jobs

According to a recent study commissioned by Currys PC World, the top dream job of someone aged between 12 and 25, I am (obviously) pleased to report, is writer 🙂

This is then followed in second place by YouTube sensation, then artist in third, photographer in fourth and clothes designer in fifth. Those surveyed claimed that finding the right job was more important to them than money and they felt less inclined to follow in their parents’ footsteps.

The list has changed quite considerably from the ambitions held by youngsters 50 years ago.

According to the study, the top dream jobs then were teacher, followed by scientist, footballer, sportsman and doctor.

Of the over-50s who were asked about their childhood ambitions, 43% of them said there weren’t as many opportunities available to them as there are now. Around a third thought they weren’t very aspirational in their youth, and 15% said they were pressured into a career path by their parents.

Older and wiser

Now for me, as I got older and, as my mother would probably say, slightly more creative, I left my petrol-head ways behind me, and moved towards the slightly more attainable dream of becoming a writer.

I had a very inspirational English teacher, who had a background in magazine writing and editing, and although I don’t recall ever being pressured into a career path, I chose one that led to writing for a living. Once again, I was heavily influenced by what was around me.

Whether it was a far-fetched aspiration or a sensible attainable goal, we all had dreams of what our future jobs might be when we were bright-eyed young things. So what did you want to be when you were young? How were you influenced in your future dream jobs?


That’s a very small sample survey: “The research of 1,515 teenagers and adults in the UK was conducted in August 2016”, so I doubt its validity, to be honest. What’s important to realise is that many children fail to achieve what they want. Many youngsters are distracted and uncertain about where they see their lives heading, yet there’s mounting evidence that the most important contributory factor towards ultimate achievement is motivation. Good parents and good teachers will never tell a child that something’s beyond them; they’ll always try to encourage, guide and motivate kids to achieve whatever they can. Because it’s amazing just how far a motivated child can go.

It’s possibly true to say kids of yesteryear leaned more towards their parents in terms of occupation, but I suspect that only applied to the professional classes. Now, media icons serve to transfix and inspire, but not necessarily in the best ways. I achieved what I wanted to do, and later moved into my second field of writing. But I’ve always been very glad I had inspirational and motivating teachers. They made a real difference.


I realise I owe a huge amount to both my parents and much teachers.

I particularly remember that my old headmaster regularly used the parable of the talents in morning prayers. I think his point may have been that we would all end up as uniquely talented individuals – and then it would be our job to do whatever we could do best to benefit others (and society in general).


I agree with Ian on the inadequacy of the survey – it is a very small sample across such a wide age range. But in some respects I would say the results show a remarkable validity on the difference between career aspirations for the ‘young Brits’ and the ‘older generation’. Of course, only those of us in the latter group can fully recognise this [sorry Lauren!]. Looking at the “Top 20 Jobs . . . ” table in the linked article it shows that years ago the top categories that youngsters aspired to were useful jobs serving people and making things better for people [except for No. 3] and I would agree with that. Today’s generation is much more self-centred and wants a self-gratifying career [one has to understand in each case that the word ‘successful’ is missing but it is clearly implied]. Not until we get down to No. 12 do we find a useful career choice and then there are two or three more in the remaining eight. The older generation desired jobs that required apprenticeship or training and qualifications; the new cohort clearly place more trust in their inherent talent or personality. Since success or great competence only comes to a few in any career I fear we are paving the way for increasing disappointment. What worries me is the number of vital jobs that nobody aspires to. In the long run they are bound to be the most rewarding.


Thats an inspired piece of posting John !


Oh, thanks, Duncan. I thought it would just about do on a Sunday when nobody’s looking.


A random careers site – alec.co.uk – lists the 10 most popular UK careers as:
Marketing officer; Software “engineer”; Medical administrator; Community nurse; Advertising agency account executive; Customer services assistant; Information officer; Administrator; Engineer. Their US and Canada results were, however, heavily weighted towards the medical professions.

A curious collection. I suppose it depends what you ask, who you ask, and what environment you operate in. I don’t see why Currys have any particular credentials to run a meaningful survey. Except perhaps to survey their staff on an understanding of the Consumer Rights Act.

What is depressing is the apparent lack of aspiration to do useful jobs – productive in the sense of making, building, caring, designing, feeding…… Perhaps they are influenced by the fantasy electronic world inhabited by some, presumably via the electronic devices purveyed by, among others, Curry’s. Like getting uptight about whether a luxury mobile phone has a headphone socket or not, I wonder whether we are losing touch with what the real world needs?


Yes ! – Back of the net, Malcolm.


This is quite a topical topic, given that May has loosened the reins on Grammar schools being expanded. On another forum the debate about Grammar schools is very busy, and May’s move might well change the face of education in England, at any rate.

Career aspiration and the quality of Secondary Schooling are inextricably linked. The timing of May’s move is also interesting. Given the disarray in Labour at the moment there’s hardly likely to be any real opposition to the proposals.