I had no idea what I wanted to do when I was in year 11. My Mum kept asking me and I kept fobbing her off as I really didn’t know and even discussing it made me feel anxious. I realise now that probably thinking it through a little more often might have helped, but that that time career counsellors at school were relatively untrained and I the one I eventually saw at University said ” Oh you are doing an Arts degree, you will be fine ” Yep- that is EXACTLY what he said !
I have a teen going through this right now She is not a particularly academic child so that makes it harder ! And she hates school ! We have had a talk about career path and she says she feels very stressed because everyone at school seems to be obsessed with decision making and she just has no ideas for her own pathway. It seems that not much has changed since I was in high school, except for the fact that teenagers today have a larger social net and more life experiences so their frame of reference is a little wider cast than mine ever was. They also get a little more exposure to work experience through their school too.
My daughter seems to think that she must decide right now, and it freaks her out ! I tell her that many people don’t know for years what they want to be when they grow up and some like my husband still struggle . Still this is probably little consolation when you feel the pressure at school and see friend who are lucky enough to already know ( boy they really use to pee me off ! ) Nobody can really tell you what you should choose as a career, and parents need to be sounding boards and offer guidance but never push their own unfulfilled ambitions through their kids. You must always follow your heart . Many kids fear that if they make a decision now then they are bound by that come hell or high water for the rest of their lives. But they are not are they ? You and I know that education can never be taken away from you, and all learning blocks build to your next platform, wherever you start . Little did I know that a pedestrian Arts Degree 30 years ago would be the fast track to another calling. Who’d have thunk it !
So what did I tell my Princess Peach ?
My advice to her was this :
people transition through many careers nowadays . It is normal to have 2or 3 maybe even more careers through your entire career trajectory and even more jobs !
I went from an Arts degree, to TV , to theatre , to teaching to counsellor ! All jobs have utilised part of my potential abilities . Loved them all and felt they all were developing my skills . Each job was a lesson in what I was good at and what I was not ! It also allowed me to understand that I get bored very easily, so jobs with new challenges was going to be my ongoing theme in life, despite the uncertainty and instability that is its necessary trade off.
I said to her, rather than be paralysed by not knowing, and do nothing , pick something that you are good at and enjoy . If you are good at it but hate it – it’s a waste of your time .
How do you know what you like at 15, 16, 17 ?
Ask your child this : Tell me something that you are doing where you forget about time ? Where you go ” Oh God I need to stop this and go do…”
This is when they are tapping into their authentic self . They stops clock watching and is in their ” flow ” . It could be tennis , reading, writing , video games , drawing , painting , cooking , watching the news , talking to people about their feelings , organising social events , web site design , whatever it is ! Then extrapolate from that a possible career path . I would never advice anyone concentrate on a subject they are fab at but don’t enjoy . They will get sick of it .My daughter was going to do Maths in year 12 . I said ” why on earth would you do maths !, you hate it and you don’t get good marks in it” . She looked at me firstly as if I was criticising her , then it dawned on her what I was saying and she said ” Bloody hell , no frigging Maths how good is that ?” as if she really got it for the first time that she could let the bain of her life go ! and I said , ” if you go into business buy a calculator or better still employ your Nana ; she IS an accountant “. She laughed.
I had a student I was counselling who said he didn’t know what to focus on at school , his dad wants him to have a ” great career ” I said what do you find fun at school , he said languages and web coding and reading . There it is ! He started teaching himself Chinese online , stepped up his reading and did some web coding at home .
Starting a degree in something , a vocational course in something -and then either switching when they know what they want to do and get credit or finish the degree and build upon it .
Always always choose something that interests you rather than what you are good at , if it’s both, bonus ! Career choice is an ongoing , organic , unfolding aspect of life , encourage our child to see it as this rather than a decision made and kept forever .
Need career guidance for your teenager ? Call me I can help .