What Do You Want To Do When You Grow Up?

[Post by Chuck Krugh, July 24, 2023]

In the next few blogs, I’m shifting my focus away from the company to focus on you and your career. I hope this will be a helpful series.

“What do you want to do when you grow up?” has been a common question in my house and still is even today. Asking this question started a long time ago – after I got out of the Army and was newly married. Thankfully, I had a trade as I left the Army, but I didn’t have a direction. I can remember talking to my wife and her asking me, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” I can remember struggling with this question and not coming up with great answers.

I’ve discovered that it is a good question to ask oneself. I have asked myself that same question numerous times in my career, especially when I was at an inflection point – a point where I was bored with my job, facing potential job changes, frustrated in my role or looking at new opportunities. It’s a hard question to answer.

It’s also a question I ask my kids when we talk about their careers. (I think they like getting that question about as much as I did back then.) It’s a tough question that’s not supposed to be easy to answer. Instead, it makes you think! Even if you can’t answer the question, it forces you to think about where you are and where you want to be – direction, goals and maybe future positions.

What do you want to do when you grow up? Have you thought about it? What are you doing to get there? What steps are you taking today to help you achieve your goals? How much are you committed to achieving your career goals? What are you willing to give up to get there? If you are already in your dream job, what are you doing to keep it (i.e., training, skill development, other responsibilities, etc.). So many questions…

You really have many options when you break it down that way. It’s up to you to decide what direction to take. Managing your career is all about choices and actions. The choices that you make define your direction. The actions are the things you do to move your career along in that same or new direction. Choices select direction and actions drive you forward (even if sometimes it seems like it’s going lateral or stepping back).

I’ll use myself to illustrate the subtle difference between the two. After I began working on civilian aircraft and my family started growing, I knew I wanted to reach for higher goals and bigger responsibilities. I didn’t know exactly how I was going to do it, but I knew I would.

I had to make a choice – stay in my trade, specialize and become an expert, or work toward a path in management. This was a big choice for me because I was making a good living (I worked all the overtime I could) and entering management there was going to require me to finish college. The higher goal I chose was the management path; therefore, the associated action I had to take was to go back to college while still working full time. Although it was a challenge, finishing college was going to enable me to make an eventual move into management.

While that was a tough decision, the harder decision came when I had to make the actual choice of staying in the trade or moving into management. That choice was extremely painful as I lost my overtime pay in exchange for higher base pay. My family felt the effects of that choice as well, but my wife and I took a longer view of my career instead of focusing on what would happen to my pay in the short term. The action in this case was actually making the change and starting in a management/salaried role.

As you think about your career, you will have choices to make and actions to take to achieve your goals. Remember, they are your goals and not mine or someone else’s. You have to take time to evaluate what’s important for you and your family. No one else can do it for you. It may take a little time for it to come together, but as it becomes clear you can make a plan.

I generally come up with these topics after talking with you on the deckplates. If you want me to cover a specific topic, please don’t hesitate to let me know. Your feedback is always welcome!

See you on the deckplates!

Safely Execute High-Quality Work

President, General Dynamics Bath Iron Works

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