What do you want to do when you grow up?

We all have that memory from the time in our elementary school classroom when our teachers asked us what we wanted to be when we “grew up.”

We all have that memory from the time in our elementary school classroom when our teachers asked us what we wanted to be when we “grew up.”


“Professional Athlete”


As we mature, our answer to that question evolves. We lose a bit of naivety, other priorities factor in, and by the time we enter our senior year of high school, our answer often falls into one of a finite set of predetermined career buckets.

Those buckets look something like:

  • Doctor
  • Investment Banker
  • Lawyer
  • Salesperson
  • Consultant
  • Chef
  • The list goes on…

Sooner or later, whether it’s in college (for those of us lucky enough to attend) or well after, we have to answer that question for real. The answer becomes a reality. And we start living whatever it is “we want to be.”

But I’ve always wondered…how has that answer changed over the generations?

We’ve always had some form of doctor, farmer, lawyer, entrepreneur, etc. in our society. But the amount of opportunity and room for growth in each space has changed dramatically.

Take for example, agriculture. Over 200 years ago, 90 percent of the U.S. population lived on farms and produced their own food to eat. But today, only two percent of the population produces the food, including fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy, that everyone eats (Prax, 2010). But we still manage to eat! How is that possible?

We need less farmers because the farmers are much better. And their equipment and seeds are too.

It is not just farming, though, every industry has and is changing.

Helpful Reminder for us Gen Zers and Millennials: The internet was invented in the 1980s. Popularized much later. What the heck did people do before it was around?

From a economic perspective, innovation like this is a good thing. Industries need to evolve with the times to stay alive. Otherwise, someone (or some robot) will take their place.

Many companies and entire industries have gone completely extinct. Industry turnover is real.

Fortune 500 firms in 1955 v. 2015; Only 12% remain, thanks to the creative destruction that fuels economic prosperity

There also is a moral discussion about the evolution of industries and careers. Is it always a good thing for society to move quickly and evolve? Yes cell phones are great. But are they making us all happier?

Clearly, there is a lot to consider about this whole career / job thing. “Growing up” is supposed to be hard, right?

So that back to that initial question: how have career options changed over the generations? What careers from 100 years ago do not exist today? Better, what careers from 10 years ago are less attractive and maybe even extinct today?

More importantly, and more applicable to us today, is the question:

“What careers will not exist 10 years from now? 20, 40 years from now?”

What are things we dream of doing that will not even exist in the next 20 years? It is a fascinating topic, and the core of our next discussion at Moonshots.

There are tons of questions to talk about:

Will jobs get automated? Which jobs first? Is jobs getting automated a good thing for society? What can we do to future proof ourselves? Why do we work in the first place? Is work necessary? Which careers will be around for the longest time? Will robots ever replace humans in the workplace? Is there a point in learning anything other than computer science? How far out is any of this? Is this all just a bubble?

Here are some interesting links about the topic:

I am excited for the conversation. Check our FB group for the meeting or email me if you want to get involved jordangonen1 @ gmail.com . If you are not a student at WashU, and still interested, still email me, would love to chat!

Have an awesome week!