Don’t know what you want to be when you grow up? Here’s why you shouldn’t stress

If you’ve been stressing about what’s ahead in your career path – relax. The future is uncertain for even the most successful people in the world, so it’s okay to still be figuring out what you want to be when you grow up. Although a healthy concern for what’s next is important, it’s also vital to have some self-compassion and patience with yourself. Figuring out what you want in life doesn’t just happen – it’s an ongoing journey that can change and transform over time. Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t stress if you’re still unsure of what you want to be when you grow up.


1. Success comes at every age

Don’t compare yourself to anyone – especially the cursed individuals who find wild success when they are in their early twenties. Success in life isn’t supposed to come easy or quickly. You have to trust the journey and stay patient. Also keep in mind that you probably won’t be doing your best work until you’ve worked in your career 10 years or so. And remember, it’s never too late to pursue your dreams or realize what your ambitions are.


2. Being open can lead you to unexpected and exciting places

Having a rigid idea of what you want to be and what job you want to have can actually keep you from success and happiness in some cases. As careers change and your tastes and talents develop, you may realize that something you used to love in the abstract, is actually a job that makes you miserable in the day-to-day. Remaining open to whatever opportunities strike means you aren’t tethered to some idea of how your life should look like. Focus on which opportunities are actually available and what might make you happy and make the best use of your talents.


when you grow up


3. Diverse experiences can be a strength

Every internship offers different lessons to learn for people still figuring out the answer to “what will you be when you grow up?” Even though it may take you years to figure out what kind of job you’re interested in, what you learn along the way will still contribute to your professional growth. If you truly embrace each experience you have as a professional, you’re going to be OK in the long-run. Learning how to tackle different problems, work as a team, be personable, take responsibility for your actions, meet deadlines, show up on time and contribute to meetings are all valuable skills in any workplace.


4. Define “success” however you like

At the end of the day, the only person whose opinion matters is your own. And you don’t have to have your dream job to be proud of where you are in life and call it “success.” There are so many ways to grow and find satisfaction as a human being – your job is just one piece of the puzzle.

when you grow up



5. Your 20s are the perfect years to experiment

If you’re going to have a career crisis, it’s so much better to go through it during your 20s, rather than any other time in your life. While you’re young, you don’t have as much financial responsibility, you’re less likely to be married or have children – you’re free to experiment and try new things.


6. It’s OK to figure things out one step at a time

Trust the trial and error process. Take a job or internship, decide what you like and dislike about it, and then look for something that offers more of the good and less of the bad.



Still confused about what you want to be “when you grow up?” Learn more about how gaining international internship experience can help launch your career.



1. based on UFV Career Fair 2014, by University of the Fraser Valley, CC-by-2.0

2. based on WCSU_4981, by WestConn, CC-by-ND 2.0

3. based on Veterans Tribute Career Technical Academy, by US Department of Education, CC-by-2.0


The International Internships Blog is a collaboration by The Intern Group staff, alumni and current participants to give you career advice & tips, program information, & so much more!

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Elizabeth Trovall

After short stints in Argentina and Belize, Elizabeth is finishing up her fourth year in Santiago, Chile. Elizabeth writes about international internships, life abroad and professional development for The Intern Group. She also reports on politics, business and culture in Latin America for public radio and print media. An Austin, Texas native, Elizabeth first left home to earn her journalism degree from the Reynolds Institute of Journalism at the University of Missouri. Besides her friends and family, she misses live music and Mexican food the most.
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