Turning Interests into a Career

Confucius, a Chinese philosopher once said, “choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” But what does that mean to a kid and how do they figure out what jobs or careers match things you love? That’s where Future Quest Island - Explorations, and the evidenced-based Possible Selves Framework come in…but I’ll get to that in a moment. First, I would like to share a bit about how I tied my life experiences and professional knowledge into the development of this early transition project.

I grew up in the early 1980s when technology, media, and gaming were evolving. I saved every penny to buy my first (of many) gaming consoles manufactured by Atari, the makers of the renowned game Space Invaders, which was highly engaging even in monochrome. Little did I know or would ever predict that my life-long passion for gaming would lead to a future career. In fact, I really had no concept of the future, like many other elementary students. I recognized some of my family and role models had different careers. My grandfather and father each owned their own car business, my mother was a model and fashion merchandiser, my aunt was an accountant, one of my uncles was a renowned sports announcer/producer, and others were managers, teachers, professors, a NASA space engineer, and doctors. Yet, I didn’t quite understand their trajectory and wondered how I would find my own niche and path to a future career.

What I did know was I had big dreams. I was going to be a famous actress. I loved the movies and wanted this more than anything else in the world. Inspired and determined, I landed the leading role as the ‘Princess with a Broken Heart’ and at the age of 8, I was making this future famous actress career goal a reality!

As I grew older, I could see how some of my other talents and interests would help shape my future career. I volunteered in an Easter Seals program after school twice a week teaching students with significant special needs how to swim and decided my backup career plan would be a teacher. I also considered becoming an Olympic bicyclist, a photographer, a musician, and a doctor. Nevertheless, at the time, I had no concept of what a career meant, and I certainly didn’t realize that practice, passion, and persistence would help shape my future career.

So, after successfully graduating from Lesley University with a master’s degree in education, I spent the last 20 years working in the field of education as a technology teacher and administrator, a universal instructional designer, and a program director. Fortunately, I’ve been able to combine my past experiences and philosophies about nurturing student academic and personal motivation through technology and gaming into an all-in-one solution for teaching and learning, while ensuring all students have access. Thus, the birth of Future Quest Island - Explorations (FQI-E).

FQI-E is an online universally designed and accessible standards-based curriculum that uses gaming strategies to motivate and support improved self-concept, social and emotional competence, and early college and career awareness for upper elementary students with and without disability (grades 3-5) using the evidenced-based “Possible Selves” framework. I believe Possible Selves is an incredible framework because, like my story above, it allows students to reflect and dream about who they are as a person, friend, learner, and worker (Ruvolo & Markus, 1992).

Our extraordinary team crafted and embedded the exploration of 30 STEAMS (science, technology, engineering, arts, math, service & trade) careers into the FQI-E platform as a game. Included with each selected career is detailed information on the education and training requirements, median salary from O*Net, original videos with diverse characters, and qualities for that specific career.

Are you looking for an engaging, effective way to support your students’ self-concept, social and emotional competence, and early college and career awareness? If so, you should consider participating in the Future Quest Island - Explorations study with ICI at UMB and EDC this upcoming school year! We are looking for teams of 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade educators to guide students through the curriculum to:

  • Create a Possible Selves Tree highlighting all their hopes, dreams, preferences, and goals as a person, friend, learner, and worker/helper. 
  • Develop an online portfolio that is all about them! 
  • Learn about 30 different careers in STEAMS fields  (Science, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics, Service & Trade) 
  • Earn and use digital coins to customize a personal online island hut! 

To learn more about FQI-E, please visit www.fqie.org or email lori.cooney@umb.edu.

If you’re wondering if I believe Confucius was right? My answer is YES! I absolutely love my career. Sure, sometimes it feels like work but mostly it’s love. And I am so extremely grateful and fortunate to have Debra Hart and Meg Grigal as my mentors and colleagues, and FableVision Studios as my partners in designing, developing, and bringing FQI-E into the hands of elementary students and educators throughout the country.

Oh, and as for the big plans for a famous acting career, I followed through and made my mark. However, life throws curveballs, and sometimes you must make important and meaningful choices to live your best life. For me, that’s my family, friends, and my commitment to fostering and nurturing our youth through education and recreation. And yes, I still play video games, ride my bike, take photographs, am a ‘doctor’ to my children, and even learned to play guitar as an adult. I would undoubtedly say I am experiencing my best ‘Possible Self’ and my hope is that students can also envision their future ‘Possible Selves’ using Future Quest Island - Explorations.


Ruvolo, A. P., & Markus, H. R. (1992). Possible selves and performance: The power of self-relevant imagery. Social Cognition, 10(1), 95–124. https://doi.org/10.1521/soco.1992.10.1.95

About the post author: Lori Cooney is the project coordinator for Future Quest Island. She has 25 years of extensive experience designing and delivering professional development on universal design, inclusive education, individualized learning plans, curriculum development, course design, technology integration, college and career readiness, and assessment strategies for pK-16 students. Additionally, Lori has established several inclusive and accessible playgrounds in Massachusetts. 

Future Quest Island - Explorations