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"When I grow up..."

When I was asked, "what do you want to be when you grow up?" as a child, I would have never said: philosopher - organisation development consultant - systems thinker - integral coach - reiki practitioner - focused on dialogue and conversations. But it turns out, that is my calling. It's lot of things, but at core they are the same: all concerned with the human condition and potential. My insight is: - Your job doesn't have to be ONE thing - You can invent your own job I think that we can support young people (albeit a particular section) to better explore the opportunities available or to make their own. For me it was a combination of dreaming, support from mentors and a coach, and a breadth of short-term jobs that got me here.

Photo of Sarah Owusu
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Key questions / concerns for me are:
- what is the best vehicle to get these conversations going? Maybe it is a reconfiguration of the traditional "Career's Advisor", maybe it is a "Design your Dream Job toolkit"... 
- who would this be suitable for? Does this work as well for a Western University graduate as it would for a young person from a less priviledged background?

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Photo of Meena Kadri

I can fully relate to this, Sarah – as I wouldn't have said Online Community Manager either :^) And in fact, shortly after I joined OpenIDEO, I decided I didn't like the term I'd been hired under: Community Manager – so I changed my role title to OpenIDEO Cross-pollintaor.

For me the issue you've raised speaks somewhat to reflecting on one's skills and thinking about purpose rather than going straight to limited pathways when answering the question – what do you want to do when you grow up? At the time I was hired by OpenIDEO (when I actually wasn't looking for a job :^) – I was developing skills in social media and online collaboration through my work as a communications strategist. I was also starting to define my professional purpose around social innovation directions. So when the job came up it was a natural fit rather than a goal job I was particularly seeking out. I didn't fall into the youth demographic – but it does make me wonder about whether a shift towards thinking about matching skills with purpose could help guide youth towards new pathways. In this light, you might like to check out this post from a previous challenge: https://openideo.com/challenge/youth-employment/winning-concepts/purpose-workshops – and on exposure to new pathways, you might like to join conversations on this post from our current challenge: https://openideo.com/challenge/youth-employment-pathways/research/positive-role-models-for-work-and-employment

Great to have you onboard OpenIDEO – and we're loving the conversation you've kickstarted here!

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Photo of Luisa Fernanda

Meena and Sarah,
What great insights. In fact that quote from the little prince is one that has stuck with me since I was 12. Meena, your experience is similar to what I went through when being hired by OpenIDEO. For me it has always been difficult to put myself in one box.

I always have a hard time filling out check boxes when asked about my ethnicity, occupation and place of residence. I happen to be a mix of races, live in different cities and work as a designer, artist, researcher, community strategist, comms specialist and client manager.

When I was interviewing for this position my diverse work experience and skill set were appreciated and valued. However, few employers value this. I've learned that one needs to tailor one's professional persona to fit under a particular title and downplay other experience to not confuse the employer, at least in the US and Colombia. Employers want to make sure that you will succeed at a specific job and in order to make this assessment they need to check pre-determined boxes.

In order to support this important and innovative pathway to employment is key to work with employers to help them understand the value of having employees that have diverse backgrounds, skills and interests and redefine recruitment methodologies.

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Photo of Sarah Owusu

Nice - thanks for the comments :) It gives it more lenses to look at this issue through:
- what environment needs to be in place (both before: education, and after: employment) for this to be viable?
- who is best placed to lead / support/ ignite this thinking?
- which skills / capacities need to be generated to unlock this thinking: diversity, creativity, confidence...?

@Meena: love the purpose workshops - I feel like I am perpetually running one in my head! Also unlocks more questions:
- What happens after you "find your purpose"? Does your purpose change / evolve over time?

And it made me think about how to integrate it into the world - it's not just about what I want (as an individual), but about how that impacts on the interconnected world I live in (a community). So how to engender a sense of connectedness and being part of an environment too....?

Thanks for the * thoughts sparks *

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Photo of Meena Kadri

Re: What happens after you "find your purpose"? Does your purpose change / evolve over time?

I certainly recommend to my clients that they re-visit their mission & vision statements annually (similar to purpose in a way) and would suggest that individuals do this too. On what happens when you define your purpose – and I think this is key – you are more likely to successfully adapt to meaningful opportunities that arise rather than just chasing jobs for the sake of it.

Re: And it made me think about how to integrate it into the world - it's not just about what I want (as an individual), but about how that impacts on the interconnected world I live in (a community).

Thought you might want to check out this post: https://openideo.com/challenge/youth-employment-pathways/research/learn-to-identify-resources-and-need Finding your passion is one thing – but matching it to real needs seems to be an important part of the equation. Something I've often reminded my design students is that *work* is always going to be, in some way, in the service of others.