Jane Bradley: I'm not doing my childhood dream job, are you?
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I dreamed of becoming a vet, after a summer visit to my aunt and uncle who live on a horse farm in the US and run a veterinary hospital. Age six, watching my Uncle Lenny stick his gloved hand into a horse to check on the position of a soon-to-be-born foal seemed somehow to be an unimaginably glamorous career path.
Combine that with a love for the 1980s TV series All Creatures Great and Small and the scene was set: I was going to be a female James Herriot with a successful small animal practice in the Yorkshire Dales.
There was only one problem, which I didn’t really admit to myself until a few years later – I didn’t really like animals that much. I was also, though I hated to acknowledge it, a little scared of them, particularly the ones with teeth. I would have made a terrible vet. I later switched my allegiances to the written word and by the age of ten, had decided my destiny was in journalism.
Unusually, apparently, I somehow seem to have stuck with it. A report out this week listed journalism as one of those professions which people ranked as their top ambitions when they were children – along with fashion model and private investigator – but which they quickly ditched in favour of a more “sensible” career when they grew up.
The survey, from jobs website Indeed, also found that horticulturalists, wine tasters and wedding planners make the list of things that young people thought they might do, but that were quickly ditched in favour of more practical options as they got older.
Some, of course, such as my colleague Kevan – who put journalistic dreams on hold from the age of 16, but finally got his first newspaper job aged 37 – have been lucky enough to end up working in their chosen profession. My friend Tamsyn based her teenage career choice on fellow Scot Anna, a character in 1990s TV series This Life, played by Daniela Nardini – and stuck with it. “I wanted to be a lawyer, like Anna in ‘This Life’,” she explained. “I am a lawyer and I still have a haircut influenced by Anna’s, so I think that’s a win.”
Sometimes, of course, life throws up opportunities that people would never otherwise have considered – or known about. A lot of career choices are made through basic opportunity – or lack thereof. In the area I grew up in, almost everyone worked in the chemical industry: either as engineers or on the plant floor. Outside of that, other people had normal jobs which have to exist everywhere: in retail, the service sector, teaching, medicine. It was only when I went to university that I became aware that other people (or rather other people’s parents) did things for a living that I’d never even heard of: advertising executives, marketing managers, charity fundraisers. If I’d known they existed earlier, they may well have been part of my long-term plan.
When he was five, my friend John told his sister that he wanted to become a cow when he grew up. It is possible that he was talking of a cow of the pantomime variety, as in his teens he embraced a passion for acting and even finished drama school – only to become embroiled in a summer charity aid programme which took him to eastern Europe, where he has lived, working in various capacities, for the majority of the past two decades.
My former university flatmate, Mike, on the other hand, dreamed of being editor of the Beano, postponed his degree for a year to play in a semi-successful rock band in Italy, and has now finally settled down in Singapore, where he works in sales for a sports media team.
Is he happy with his choice? He says so, though I secretly wonder whether he is holding out hope that he will one day scoop the top job which will allow him to decide on the adventures of Dennis and Gnasher and hand out badges for the Beano fan club.
Oliver hoped to become an architect, but his musical talent took over and he was forced to put aside a stable career – still dabbling design on the side – to front one of the UK’s most successful cover bands.
Others have realised their childhood dreams, even if it has taken years to do so. In fact, I am impressed at how many of my friends say they have achieved the ambitions they set for themselves as youngsters.
Laura wanted to be a dancer and, at the age of 20, scooped a job at the Moulin Rouge in Paris. Jayne wanted to be a photographer or a steam train driver. After a lengthy career in photography, she is now in training to drive steam engines in her spare time, complete with fetching boiler suit and flat cap.
Edinburgh-based author Alison Belsham tells me she harboured ambitions to be a tap dancer for much of her youth, but found herself somewhat hampered by her two left feet. “I did it at school, but I was absolutely hopeless,” she admits. “But I also wanted to be a writer, which I have just achieved.”
Even some of those who have made a long and successful career out of a non-practical job had to wait it out before they achieved their goal. Actor Hugh Jackman, best known for playing Wolverine in the X-Men movies was employed as a PE teacher at an English public school, while Whoopie Goldberg worked as a beautician in a morgue before shooting to fame as one of the world’s best-known actresses.
The Indeed report claims that more people are returning to jobs relating to an interest, passion and hobby, with just 12 per cent of those surveyed saying that salary was a major factor in their chosen profession.
When I told my veterinarian aunt that I was writing this column, she admitted that she, too, was scared of dogs as a child – and suffered further setbacks after being told by a 1960s headmistress that a girl could not study veterinary medicine. Maybe there’s still hope for me yet.