Most of us don't fulfill our childhood dreams

When I grow up ...
When I grow up ...  Photo: Getty

A recent study described by New York magazine as "depressing" has revealed that only 6 percent of adults are doing the job that they wanted to do when they were a kid. 

Researchers examined data from the British Household Panel Survey in which 1,693 boys and 1,667 girls were surveyed on repeated occasions from childhood until holding their first significant jobs as adults.

The study, which has been published in the journal Social Forces investigated the different factors that influenced career aspirations and how likely those aspirations were to come into fruition. Those factors included the child's gender and the income and education of their parents.

But while the reasons we don't all grow up to fulfil our childhood ambitions can be complex, sometimes it is actually a blessing that we didn't. Here's why:

1. Kids don't necessarily understand what a career is

For most children the question "what do you want to be when you grow up?" is pretty abstract. Their worldview is still fairly narrow, and their knowledge of potential careers is probably limited to the careers of their parents, people that they come into regular contact with and things that they see on the TV.

That's probably why career choices such as 'doctor' 'nurse' 'bus driver' are popular choices.

2. Children are wildly optimistic

Even the most ambitious adults know that we have to be realistic about our limitations, for example, there is no point pursuing a career as a pop star if you can't sing. Children, however, are wildly optimistic. (Thankfully) they don't know what their limitations are and they really believe that they can do anything they set their mind to. I'm not saying that they can't… I'm just saying that some career goals may be a tad unrealistic.


This is why I can tell you with a hundred-percept certainty that my nearly five-year-old daughter will not grow up to to be Spiderman.

3. As we grow up our interests change

While some of our core values and interests remain throughout our lives, other interests shift dramatically as we grow up. Are you still interested in the same things that you were interested in when you were at primary school?

When I was at school I was passionate about space and dreamed of becoming an astronaut and traveling through the stars. Over time my interests changed, these days despite being a Doctor Who fan I have absolutely no desire to jet off in a space shuttle.

4. The world is changing

My friend Anna has an interesting job – she is called a 'digital strategist' and among other things she works with big firms on developing a social media strategy. Do you think Anna wanted to be a 'digital strategist' when she a young girl? No, of course not – because when Anna was a young girl there was not such thing as "digital strategy" there was no "social media" and the "World Wide Web" had only just been born.

The world is changing. Technology is evolving. It would be impossible to predict what exciting and interesting job opportunities will be available to our children.

5. Gender stereotyping has a lot to answer for

Have you noticed that when toy companies market their 'dressing up' clothes that little boys get to be fire-fighters, police officers and doctors and that little girls get to be nurses, fairies or princesses?

I know that girls can wear the doctor/ fire-fighter/ police officer costumes too, but you have to wonder if the way they are marketed to boys has any impact on the career aspirations of young girls.

So, When you take all this into account it is neither surprising or depressing that that only 6 precent of us are doing the jobs that our eight year old selves aspired to.

What career did you want as a child? Are you doing it now? Leave a comment below.