Guest post: What do you want to be when you grow up?

I’m so delighted to have Karen Bleakley  guest posting for me this week. She has written the perfect post to share with your teens who are struggling to decide on a future career. Some teens have a clear idea of what they want to do whilst others struggle to find a direction. The wonderful message from Karen’s post is that you don’t need to panic! So, without further ceremony……over to Karen!


It’s a question we’ve all heard. And for some people who have a calling to be a doctor or a vet or a racing driver or a teacher, it can be an easy question to answer.

When someone asked me what I wanted to be, I used to say I wanted to be a writer. Everybody’s response was always: “So, do you want to be a journalist or a novelist?”


I didn’t want to be either. But I loved crafting content and English Lit was my favourite subject.


Unfortunately, I didn’t have anyone around who knew there were more options beyond being a journalist or a novelist. I didn’t realise at the time, but I was being raised in a society where regular education and regular jobs were highly valued by parents and teachers – there was no encouragement to step outside the box and learn entrepreneurial skills. I didn’t even know what an entrepreneur was as a teenager. It was a very different era – before the internet exploded (now you have all of these guys to learn from FOR FREE!).


What did my career journey look like?

When I stepped out of education (that had really done nothing to prepare me for the world of work), I found myself a trainee admin job. It taught me computer skills and organisation skills that have been so valuable to me. After a couple of years, I was able to apply those skills to working in event management for a film festival. That satisfied my creativity while also honing my project management skills and giving me an insight into marketing and copywriting.


My next step took me further into project management where I developed my marketing skills and learnt about grant applications and websites.


After 12 years of working, I finally became self-employed as a web project manager, then when I had kids I switched to doing freelance writing. Throughout my career, I’d been constantly learning. I did an Open University course and a PR course, and lots of mini courses in marketing and copywriting.


Where am I now?

Now, I earn my income in a mix of ways. I write about family travel for a magazine. I earn monthly fees from a non-fiction parenting book that I published last year. I run a family, travel and lifestyle blog and I’ve set up a migration website and Facebook community to help support UK families as they move to Australia. And I’m about to set up two Amazon niche websites to promote products that are listed on Amazon where I will earn a commission from any sales (so I don’t actually have to sell or post the items – I only write about them and show people the best buys). I have irons in a lot of fires but all of them involve writing.


What I do online now didn’t happen overnight – it has been an evolution that has taken place over 20 years. But had I known this sort of writing career was available to me many years ago, I’m certain I’d have made the transition to working online on my own projects much sooner.


If you’re a teenager today, you have so many more opportunities open to you than I did. There are stacks of learning resources available online for free. There are hundreds of online entrepreneurs teaching the basics to launch your first online business or your first product. There are even kids out there teaching other kids how to make a living online. And you should read and watch as much of it as you can.


But online learning isn’t enough to get you the career of your dreams. I know 100% that I’m only able to do what I do now because I gained experience in the world of work first.


What work should you do?

Work, if you’re doing it right, shouldn’t feel like work. You spend so much of your life at work that it needs to be fun. If you don’t enjoy it, I think you’re in the wrong job. If you love what you do, you’ll love expanding your mind and learning as much as you can around the subject. As you learn, you’ll grow and you’re career options will open out in front of you. It’s like a ladder. If I hadn’t taken my first ‘boring’ admin job, I’d never have been employed by the film festival. Without that experience, I’d never have been employed as a council project manager and that was the job that spring-boarded me to going freelance (not to mention funded many incredible travel experiences including taking a five-week Caribbean cruise and a round the world backpacking trip – being self-employed can allow you to earn more for less work and gives you freedom, if you do it right). And all of the combined skills I’d developed allowed me to then be a freelance digital writer which then went on to lead to magazine work and further online projects too…


What would I tell my teenage self if I could go back in time?

I’d tell myself that you can have the career of your dreams, even if you aren’t sure exactly what that career looks like yet. You just need to take it a step at a time and keep learning along the way. And the most important advice I’d give would be to seek out the support from someone who is where you want to be in five or ten years’ time. Do work experience or offer to help them out as a way to get to know them and learn from them. Surround yourself with people who are ahead of you, who are more successful than you and who earn more than you because you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with and this is the best way to move forward.
But just remember one thing: The journey is just as important as the destination.


Karen Bleakley writes a family blog at Tales of a Twin Mum, runs a migration blog at Smart Steps to Australia and is a freelance writer for Australia and New Zealand magazine.


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  18 comments for “Guest post: What do you want to be when you grow up?

  1. May 30, 2017 at 6:02 pm

    I always used to say that I wanted to be a nurse when I grew up, then I decided that I wanted to work with horses, as I got closer to leaving school I said that when I was married with children I was going to open a nursery, I ended up working for the Inland Revenue, but I did register as a child minder after my third son was born
    Karen, the next best thing to mummy recently posted…Helping to bath a horse from my wheelchairMy Profile

  2. May 31, 2017 at 12:10 am

    Thanks so much for hosting me. I had a lot of fun writing the article and thinking about the journey my career has taken over the last 20 years!

  3. Fee
    June 6, 2017 at 1:15 pm

    I used to say I wanted to be a Fireman, strange really since I’m terrible with heights 🙂

    To be totally honest I still don’t know what I want to be – I’ve been working for 20 years in various different positions/lines of work and I’m yet to find it. #TweensTeensBeyond
    Fee recently posted…Back Off With Your Body ShamingMy Profile

  4. June 6, 2017 at 1:22 pm

    Oh my goodness, not only is this wonderful advice for a teen but for me too! I know how much I adore being a writer and would love to explore this further. I think you’re absolutely right and that you can have the career of your dreams. You should believe this as an adult too. A wonderful post to read, Karen – you do seem to have the idyllic career to me – well done – an inspiration for sure! #TweensTeensBeyond x
    justsayingmum recently posted…8 Tips on Social Media and Our ChildrenMy Profile

  5. June 6, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    I had a conversation like this with our teen a few months ago. I know when I was her age I had already considered many different paths. I don’t want to rush her into making a decision that she will ultimately regret #teenstweens
    Jeremy@ThirstyDaddy recently posted…Braver Than I Want Her To BeMy Profile

  6. June 6, 2017 at 2:45 pm

    I was an English major in college which prepared me for nothing. And, yet, I like to write and I can write. The journey (not yet done, natch) has always led me back to writing in various forms. I hope for my kids that they realize their natural talents and follow them.

    Katy @ Experienced Bad Mom recently posted…A Review of Fishing at Disney WorldMy Profile

  7. June 6, 2017 at 4:19 pm

    I couldn’t agree more with this article. I have been self employed since I left school but I was very lucky that I stumbled across an organisation that helped 16 year old school leavers like me to find resources and grants and give advice – it was rare back then in the 90’s. The journey is most definitely part of the destination and that is what I try to instil in my kids too – enjoy it and eventually you’ll end up with the perfect job. Oh, and work hard. It makes me so happy that the UK is so forward thinking in the arts too and that there are dozens of opportunities for kids a bit more creative than academic. Great article!
    Alex recently posted…What To Do With Boys In NottinghamMy Profile

  8. June 6, 2017 at 4:20 pm

    Oops – #tweensteensbeyond
    Alex recently posted…What To Do With Boys In NottinghamMy Profile

  9. June 6, 2017 at 9:28 pm

    I wanted to be a librarian ever since i can remember and am lucky enough to be one. Although what I do is actually nothing like I imagined or what i trained for. The Tubblet hasn’t decided yet, but this is a great post as it shows there are many paths you can go down to find a great job for you.

  10. June 7, 2017 at 9:40 am

    This is the most sane and practical piece of advice I’ve read in a long time “seek out the support from someone who is where you want to be in five or ten years’ time”. I’ll make sure I remember it for when the children are older. #TeensTweensBeyond
    Obsessivemom recently posted…A normal birthdayMy Profile

  11. June 7, 2017 at 11:52 am

    This line stood out for me, Karen. ” If you love what you do, you’ll love expanding your mind and learning as much as you can around the subject” That’s exactly how I found my current job (editor of a parenting website) and I also enjoy myself while blogging. I’m so glad that the opportunities for kids are so diverse today as opposed to 20 years ago. But you’re absolutely right about all of these things taking time and that keeping the nose to the grindstone is most important. Thank you for such a practical and useful post!

    Shailaja Vishwanath recently posted…How & When to have the Puberty Talk with your DaughterMy Profile

  12. June 7, 2017 at 5:15 pm

    This is such a positive post!I remember being told I should be a shop assistant by my careers adviser! Blimey…thanks. We are having similar conversations in the old house with our daughter about whether she wants to go to uni. Its so hard now with the financial aspect to consider carefully when young people are finding it so hard to get a job afterwards. I like the advice about work should not feel like a chore and it should be something that you love. I wish that was something I had been told -so simple but so true. Thank you for this. x #Tweensteendbeyond
    oldhouseintheshires recently posted…My Glorious Gardens series: Lacock Abbey Gardens in June.My Profile

  13. June 8, 2017 at 11:08 am

    Love this post for all its positivity for both me and my children! I really want my kids to believe that they can do anything they want to do, as long as they work hard and are dedicated. I wasn’t really made to think that as my parents were very conservative and thought office jobs were the bee all and end all. I wish I’d followed my dreams of writing back them but in hindsight I gained valuable experience in the work place, which as you mention is so important. And now I’m following my dreams. You are an example of someone who is writing as a career in several different ways. #TweensTeensBeyond
    Susie/So Happy In Town recently posted…KeraStraight – How To Go From Bushy Barnet To Silky Smooth LocksMy Profile

  14. June 9, 2017 at 5:41 pm

    I wish I’d followed my heart and my head and not given into pressure from my parents on deciding my career. I ended up following my dream of teaching and working with children but now carry a student debt with me, having not followed my dream on leaving school when Uni was free to me, instead going into work waiting to get married and have kids. My eldest is following his dream and moving to Australia in August with his girlfriend to work, he’s just not happy with his good job and flat in the UK and wants more in life, he goes with our full blessing (and a few tears)

  15. June 9, 2017 at 8:14 pm

    I always wanted to dance/act/sing when I was growing up. My parents told me to do a ‘proper’ degree first then have a go at the performing arts. You can imagine how that panned out – in fact I’ve written four blog posts about an acting course I went on (aged 50) to try and fulfil the urge I never lost lol! My eldest teen is now in 6th form and hasn’t got a clue about what he wants to do. I might be suggesting a year out working while he decides. And if he decides he wants to have a go at something a bit ‘left of centre’ I’ll be behind him all the way. #TweensTeensBeyond
    Midlife Dramas in Pyjamas recently posted…Acting Course Part 4 – Like a Puppet on a…My Profile

  16. June 12, 2017 at 3:46 pm

    I read English at University and didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do until my final year. I knew it had to involve writing and allow me to be creative, there followed a 20 year career in PR and I loved every minute. It ticked all my boxes. Now that my teens are growing up I have picked up the writing again and am enjoying being a freelancer. As far as my own teens are concerned I have one who is very mathematical and another who loves creative writing. It will be interesting to see where they end up but at the moment I am just encouraging them to pursue what they love. An interesting read Karen. #TweensTeensBeyond
    Jo (MotherofTeenagers) recently posted…Essential Festival Tips For Teenagers & Their ParentsMy Profile

  17. June 13, 2017 at 2:50 pm

    Such a really helpful and useful post! Thanks for sharing! We have yet to face this bit, but it’s coming!
    Sorry it’s a bit late comment wise

  18. June 16, 2017 at 7:00 pm

    I think it’s just so difficult for a teenager to imagine what they might like to be doing in 20 or 30 years time! It doesn’t have to be something tremendously exciting to be enjoyable. I asked my eldest daughter if she didn’t find her customer services job a bit dull, and she said she was one of the few people she knew of who didn’t dread work on Monday morning! That’s the important aspect! #tweensteensbeyond
    Mary Mayfield recently posted…FrustratedMy Profile

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