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Be Vs. Do

We often ask students, What do you want to BE when you grow up?


What if we asked them, “What do you want to DO when you grow up?


You can BE a lawyer and hate what you DO every day. 


It’s a different question worth asking, the earlier the better. 

Why this is important?


A job as an Account Executive at Google may sound glamorous on the outside.  “Congratulations! That’s amazing!  Friends and family may say, but the prestige and status from the brand name and title will fade and you are left with VERBS of the job.  


Behind every job title - Account Executive at Facebook, Financial Analyst at Citibank, Director of Sales for the NFL, Operations Manager at Shake Shack - are VERBS.  


What do you do every day behind the job title, and are you in a role that fits with your unique combination of verbs?  Are you DOING what you want to DO every day?



So how do I figure out what I want to DO when I grow up?


It starts with asking this question, which will refocus you on what’s most important.  


Here are four steps to help you focus your energies in the right direction:


  • Create a running list of the verbs that you enjoy doing and that come naturally to you. Here are several listed out for you to get you started.  Create your initial list now, and understand that your list will evolve over time. You can always add more verbs, but pay attention to the top 5 that stand out.


  • When you explore potential careers of interest, resist the temptation to solely focus on the prestige, brand name, or subject matter.  For instance, you might want to work for the NBA because you love basketball, and it’s a prestigious company name that people know.  Yet you will not be playing basketball.  You will be performing other VERBS.   Research the verbs of the job online as well as ask people who are already in the positions you are considering, “What are the verbs of the job?  What do you do every day?”  


  • Know that not all verbs are created equal.  When you uncover the verbs of the job, gain an understanding of which verbs are most critical to success.  For example, a professional may write only 10% of the time in her specific role, but writing may be the most critical skill to succeed in her line of work.   

  • Explore and test the verbs on your list.   If some don’t come naturally or you don’t enjoy them right away, don’t rule them out. Your verbs may evolve over time, but pay special attention to the ones that already stand out for you.  These verbs are clues.  When you explore different careers, look for roles that align with the verbs you love doing.  


By asking a different question, “What do you want to DO when you grow up?”, you will find different answers than most people, ones that are more likely to lead to you enjoying what you do every day in your career.    



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