Growing up, a question that I was frequently asked by my family and friends was, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And after many years, I realized that this type of question often leads to young people making the wrong decisions regarding their career path. 

When you often meet a child for the first time, you unconsciously find yourself curiously asking them what they want to be when they’re older, and you hear answers such as ‘a doctor’, ‘an engineer’ etc. But what’s wrong with such a rephrased question is that it directs kids wrongfully. 

This is because children’s response to this question tends to be driven by what their parents expect from them or even what they commonly see around them. 

For example, I grew up surrounded by family members working in the medical field, and when I used to get asked this question, guess what my answer was…a doctor, of course!

This is because I was influenced by the people around me, believing that their career path was what is expected and accepted from me. 

The right question that we must ask young people is, “Who do you want to be?” or, “What do you want to be known for?” 

A question that is phrased this way will allow them to stop and think. 

Think about how they see themselves in the future. 

Think about what they are passionate about. 

Think about what they are good at. 

Think about the person they want to be rather than one specific occupation/profession. 

This will eventually guide them correctly. How? Because it will open so many doors for them. 

It will give them the space so that later, when they’re wiser and know what’s best for them, they find multiple options, not just one specific view, which is most likely to be biased due to external factors influencing them. 

Try it yourself! Next time you see a younger cousin, sibling, family friend etc… ask them, “Who do you want to be?” and I bet their answer will be broad and open; such as, ‘a motivational leader’ or ‘a successful team worker’

When they grow up and their time comes to make a decision regarding their career path, they will be able to explore more options, since a leader could be one in any field, in any profession, for any purpose. 

Parents and older siblings, cousins and family friends must start shaping younger people’s minds to a more flexible mind-set. 

A mindset that includes all types of jobs, opportunities and professions.

A mindset that doesn’t feel obliged to become a doctor, an engineer or a lawyer. 

A mindset that throws away all societal expectations and starts embracing something it’s good at, passionate about and most importantly, will help them live the life that satisfies both Allah and itself.