Hey kids, let’s go to CareerWorld!

It’s not easy trying to decide what you want to be when you grow up. Take it from me, I’m still trying to figure it out. From the time we’re young we’re pushed into making this decision. It starts with our parents. Not to infer that they have ulterior motives, but they do tend to steer us towards careers which will benefit them. Okay, so it’s actually rather blatant. Sometimes they push us to follow the career they wish they’d gone into so they can feel fulfilled vicariously through us. Other times they urge us towards professions which will have a high earning potential right about the time they need it most -- when they hit their Golden Years. Still others steer their kids towards jobs which have perks for family members, such as doctors, lawyers, bail bondsmen or, again looking towards the retirement years, Depend sales reps.

Once in school you’re given tests designed to tell you what careers you’re best suited for. You remember them, they’re the ones that ask whether you’d rather sit through all of Wagner’s Ring Cycle without going to the bathroom, watch Rosie do the tango naked, or stick your tongue in an electric outlet. Somehow your answers to these questions determine which fields are appropriate for your personality type. I don’t know who designed these tests but they’re really not much help when the results come back saying you’d make an excellent farmer, priest, or Inspector #42 at a clothing factory.

That’s why schools have guidance counselors. They’re trained professionals -- Look kids! Another career opportunity! -- who can interpret these results, review your school transcript, and try not to burst out laughing while consulting their Magic Eight Ball so they can randomly choose a career to recommend. I have to admit that what little faith I might ever have hoped to have in them was dashed when my older brother’s high school guidance counselor committed suicide by jumping off a roof. Seriously. I mean, is this really someone whose advice I should be following?

Luckily we live in the 21st century, so not only do we have the advantage of peanut butter in individually plastic-wrapped slices, email in-boxes which fill up with offers to enlarge body parts we may not even have, and 500 TV channels which are more entertaining when we flip through them searching for something to watch than they are when we finally find something and it turns out to be on network TV, it also means we have new and improved ways of finding career possibilities. You know, like going to a theme park.

No, I’m not proposing you send your children to Disneyland so they can decide whether they’d rather be Goofy, Dopey, or Grumpy -- after all, they need to learn early that not all of us can grow up to be members of Congress -- I’m suggesting they go to Wannado, a role-playing theme park for kids that may be coming to a city near you. It started in Mexico City as Ciudad de los Niños -- City of Children. For as little as $15 youngsters spend the day pretending to be doctors, archeologists, circus performers, reporters, or interested. They do this in life-like surroundings while interacting with adult actors who should have better things to do with their time and talent. Grupo Magico, the company that started it, says this role playing can help children decide what they want to be when they grow up. Interestingly, most of them choose snow cone vendor or cotton candy quality control inspector.

The first Wannado, as they’re being called here in the U.S., will open in 2004 as part of a mall in Sunrise, Florida, then expand to six other cities, including Chicago, Dallas, and Atlanta. They’re not saying how the American ones will be different, but since companies including Coca-Cola, American Airlines, Sony, and Microsoft currently pay a fee to be “sponsors” of the Mexican one, it’s a fair bet children here in the U.S. will be able to role-play as movie theater concession workers, pilots, TV repair technicians, and ridiculously rich men.

Unfortunately the theme parks won’t be open on time for summer vacation this year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start planning for 2004. Imagine the look on your children’s faces when you take them to CareerWorld, where they can learn how to climb the Corporate Ladder, be thrilled by the House of H.R. Horrors, and scream at the heart-stopping ups and downs of the 401-K Roller Coaster. Years from now they’ll fondly look back at the first time they glimpsed the Stock Option House of Smoke and Mirrors and the wild freak show called the Company Christmas Party. Unfortunately there’s no fun house at CareerWorld, but they’ll forget all about that when they see the food. They’ll be able to eat crow, humble pie, and their words, and trust me, it’s never too soon to develop a taste for these staples of the business world diet.

Wannado will also come in handy for people who are looking for a career change. That’s why I hope they open one near me soon. After all, I don’t have any children to push into jobs so they can make plenty of money and help support me during my Golden Years, so if Wannado doesn’t open soon I’ll be on my own and may have to stick with writing. And continue to work on my retirement program by standing in front of a mirror and practicing saying, “Would you like fries with that? How about a snow cone?"

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