What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

We’ve worked with a number of organizations through our culture-building work, from universities to Fortune 500s. One thing that we notice is how frequently employees are really looking to build a sense of purpose and wonder in their work.

What do we mean when we say a sense of purpose?


Knowing why you come to work every day. Being excited about working on the problems you are asked to solve, and seeing the outcomes of that effort.  Having a mission in life, and seeking livelihoods that help you achieve it.

The desire for purpose-driven work is now overwhelming for both early-career and more tenured workers. But how can you go about finding that purpose, and the work that appeals to you on a root, deeply personal level?

We’ve found that going back to your dreams as a child is the most powerful way to unlock that.

Just asking the simple question - when you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? - can help somebody refocus on their purpose.

That question gets them to think about the underlying reasons for why they wanted to be that thing in the first place.  Some kids dream of being a clown or magician, few can or will -- but many never stop wanting to make people laugh or be in front of a crowd. Others want to be a firefighter or police officer, but really just wanted to make people feel safe and cared for, or perhaps looked to as a person of authority.

Finding your purpose doesn’t mean you switch jobs or careers, necessarily. It’s about knowing what truly fulfills you and finding opportunities to do that, perhaps through taking on new responsibilities at work, side projects, chances for networking, etc.

So for anybody reading now, what did you want to be when you grew up? And if it’s different from what you do now, what could you do tomorrow to get you closer to that dream?





Justin Gupta