When you're in 8th grade, it's hard to imagine what you'll be doing when you're 30.
For anyone growing up in an international family, it's not just a question of what to do, but also where to do it.
The opportunities – and challenges – that come with an international career are common themes for the young people studying at Stockholm International School.
And every year they have the opportunity to hear first-hand advice and inspiration from an impressive range of speakers at the school's annual Career Day.
“How many of you would like a job where you work and travel in seven different countries, across four continents?” asks Hans Vestberg, former CEO of Swedish telecom giant Ericsson, at the school's most recent Career Day in March 2017.
Almost every hand in the audience shoots up.
But knowing exactly what they want to do in those seven countries can be a bit more challenging.
“When I was in the 8th grade all I wanted to do was play sports,” Vestberg admits. “I never imagined I'd be CEO of a big international company.”
Hans Vestberg speaks to Stockholm International School students at Career Day
He goes on to tell how his first job after high school was as a nightclub janitor, eventually becoming manager of the whole establishment.
“That's when I started thinking – hey, I'm good at this, maybe this is what I can do. I can manage people,” he says.
It's that sort of insight and honesty – from a global CEO no less – that sets Stockholm International School (SIS) apart from other schools in the Swedish capital.
Founded in 1951, SIS is the longest-standing international school in Stockholm and delivers international curricula to students from preschool to grade 12. With a school community representing more than 60 nations, there is a strong focus on global citizenship and developing students who are valued, challenged and prepared.
In addition to Vestberg, students attending SIS Career Day 2017 also heard speakers from the US, Canada, Italy, Finland, Greece – including diplomat and lawyer Joran Bjällerstedt, Telia CEO Hélène Barnekow, Ambassador Faith Radebe, and investor Johan Stael von Holstein.
Vestberg is now an internationally known businessman, Chairman of the Swedish Olympic Committee, and board member of the UN Foundation – none of which seemed like obvious career paths when he was a sports-crazed teenager uncertain about his future.
“His description of his uncertainty of his career at my age was easy to relate to, which added to my interest of his career story,” 10th grader Leo H. tells Stockholm International School student newspaper the Quirky Quibbler of Vestberg's speech .
Career Day 2017 speaker Madhuri Gogineni, an Indian-American woman now working at Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm, also stresses that uncertainty is normal for young people considering their career.
“I knew very early that I wanted to be a doctor – but I actually think it's kind of crazy to ‘know' what you want this early,” she says.
Gogineni was inspired when she visited India with her family as a child, and she watched her uncle, the village doctor, work.
“He wasn't a doctor 9 to 5 – he was a doctor every minute of his life. People trusted him with all their problems.” Gogineni recalls. “I found his existence, his passion, and his role inspiring.”
Madhuri Gogineni shares career reflections with Stockholm nternational School students
Gogineni spent as much time as possible around healthcare after that, to make sure it was her calling.
“I volunteered and did research, all in an attempt to make sure I was making the right decision," she says. “If you're curious about something, shadow a professional and see if it really is something for you.”
After a day of listening to dozens of professionals – from football coaches to journalists to ambassadors – the students felt inspired to find their own passions and shape their own career paths.
“We need to work hard and be committed - but it is useless if we don't enjoy what we are doing,” concludes 10th grader Giordan Y, according to the Quirky Quibbler.
Of course, the emerging leaders currently enroled at SIS still have plenty of time to figure things out.
And the school, with its wealth of academic and career development opportunities, can help make the process a smooth one and ensure students are on the right track by the time they graduate – a theme that emerges in Gogineni's message to SIS students.
“You don't need to know in high school what you want to be when you grow up,” Gogineni says. “But you should start finding what sort of environment you thrive in. I encourage everyone to go to international school – and explore as much as possible.”