Why that big, scary question shouldn’t scare you at all


Tara Wesson is here to curb your fears about your post-university experience.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

When I was seven, I filled a page in tiny handwriting with all the jobs I’d do when I’d grew up. It ranged from garbage collector, to teacher, to marine biologist. I didn’t discriminate.

I’m sure that as kids, we could all spin a good yarn about being an astronaut or a ballerina (or a garbage collector, ya know, we’re all different). Yet with time passing comes facing the reality of what we’re going to be when we grow up, and it can be pretty confusing and scary. Suddenly it becomes the go-to question for teachers, parents and distant relos everywhere. If it’s got you shaking in your boots because you don't know what you wanna do, that’s totally normal. I’ve got you.

Whatever it is you do, it’s not the end of the world

University is a time of many decisions, sure. But in my experience, (most of) your tutors, and (most-likely) family will already be there to make sure you know it’s an important time, so take the pressure off yourself. You’re a capable, kickass human, and you’ll work it out, whatever happens. I promise.

Plus, finishing 13+ years of schooling and an undergraduate degree is a massive achievement in itself. You’ve spent every day at school, uni, or work, and now every day is yours for the taking. Give yourself permission to ease up on the pressure. I always stressed way too much about everything, so I’m here to tell ya: usually, the pressure we’re under is self-made.

Consider different options

There’s so many different things you can do, so talk to heaps of people and get an idea of what’s out there. For me, going to careers events really helped, and so does UTSoC Careers. Check out gap year options if you want to travel — that can be a great way of taking a breather, getting out into the world and seeing what you’re all about, before committing to a full-time role. Consider internships and apprenticeships, or just jumping straight into the workforce. In fact, who's to say that another degree is off the table? Once you start asking around, you’ll realise there’s a tonne of opportunities out there.

Don’t be scared of making the ‘wrong’ decision

Contrary to what everyone is telling you, it’s totally okay to change your mind about things. Sometimes, saying no is actually just as important as saying yes, because that’s what takes another thing off the table and brings you one step closer to knowing what you do like doing. It’s okay to make mistakes; you learn the most when you forget all those what-if’s and dive straight in. 

Listen to your gut

Maybe you can solve a Rubik’s cube in minutes, or have all your mates asking you to plan their birthday parties, or are writing weekly updates for your blog. Whoever you are, there’s always something you’re good at. Uni is not for everyone, and it can be hard to thrive within a system where certain skills are seen as more useful than others.

For me, I knew I needed to do creative writing, but I ignored that for a long time because I was told there were no jobs in the industry. I was pushed towards studying law and, for a while, I considered it. But in the end, I had to trust my gut and just go with it.

You’re not the only one feeling unsure. So next time someone asks you the god-awful, dreaded question — What’re you gonna do when you grow up? — don’t feel like you have to have all the answers.

Tara Wesson is a second-year Journalism and Creative Writing student. She likes long walks on the beach, piña coladas, and getting caught in the rain. But no, she's really just a book-lover with a dog called Shorty, a love of travel, and a penchant for dad jokes.