Which came first: the adventurer or the aviatrix?
As a kid, I never considered becoming a pilot. I knew I wanted to travel. I knew I wanted a job that would allow - if not, require - me to travel. I even went to a high school (thanks to scholarships for good grades and community service) that had an airport at the time! But no one put the idea in my head to become a pilot. Watching Top Gun, I had wanted to serve in the military, but I still did not think about being a pilot.
I sold my car and moved to Egypt after I graduated college. It was only for four months, while a government job application was being processed. Graduating in an election year, however, meant freezing of government hiring, so I never got that job. So I became a personal trainer. It was a job that allowed me to help people improve their lives and it was a job I could do anywhere. The latter criteria was very important for me.
A few years later, I moved back to the state of my high school to help manage a political campaign. That ended surprisingly early for our team, in the primaries, leaving me to search for another job. That's when a friend referred me for the airlines. I jumped at the chance, with the idea of working there for 6 months, using the flight benefits to travel around and find my “dream” job. But those travel benefits were hard to sacrifice. And the company was starting to do tremendously well. So I invested myself in it, applying to become a manager, when a friend recommend that if I wanted to be a leader in aviation, I should really just learn to fly the planes. So I did.
Not everyone has a parent or family member who works in aviation. And not everyone who does have that grows up wanting to become a pilot herself. So to grow aviation, we have to reach beyond aviation.
Most aviation jobs are in sterile areas of the airport (if they are at the airport at all - ATC TRACON; corporate airline offices, etc), meaning you have to pass through security which you cannot do without a badge, a boarding pass, or an escort. And then the pilots work behind another bulletproof cockpit door. So Take Your Daughter (or Son) to Work Day is more than a bit challenging in our industry.
Not only do we have to reach beyond aviation, we have to get creative in how we do it.
I teach English, in Spain, and I asked one of my students what he wanted to be when he grows up (even though I hate that question!). "An actor," he told me. So I said, "What if you could fly yourself to the movie sets? You could be an actor and a pilot!" He was sold on that idea! Six months later, he's changed his mind. He wants to be a writer, but, still, a pilot!
You know what really captivated his attention - maps! Sectional charts, hiking maps, subway maps, world maps, it didn't matter. He loved to explore and discover places.
Remember Where's Waldo? I bet you would still play Hide and Seek. Finding things is fun. Maps are a discovery at our desks. Not only might they teach us geography (city, state, national, or international), but they allow us to ask the question to those curious little humans, "How could you get there?"
Instead of begging an answer by asking, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" (By which we are not even using the right words, because we really want to ask "What do you want to do for work?" which may be quite different than how you define your sense of being), we should ask questions that lead to more questions. Encourage adventure. Learn about transportation, people, the environment, languages. Learn about oneself.