With the ink barely dry on the final exams and assignments for the year, if you’re a school leaver, you’re no doubt revelling in your new-found freedom.
But soon enough, the focus will shift to the next stage of life as you weigh-up big questions about the future, such as whether to work, study, travel or have a gap year to find yourself.
While you’ve most probably already given significant thought to the question of ‘what next?’, it may be dependent upon a range of factors falling into place, such as achieving the right grades or finding a suitable job.
But if things don’t go the way you planned, or you simply have a change of heart, how do you decide on what comes next.
Here is some advice on how to work through the decision making process as you leave school and enter the adult world.
1. Take the pressure down
Research shows that today’s school leavers will have an estimated 17 jobs and 5 careers during their working lives. Try not to get too tied down by the pressure of making the ‘right’ decision, as your first choice probably isn’t going to be your only one.
2. Have a backup plan
While your heart may be set on your first choice of career, keep in mind that things don’t always go to plan. You may not achieve the grades required to study in a particular field, or once you start doing a job, you may find it’s just not for you. For this reason, it’s a good idea to have a number of fall-back options.
3. Think broadly
The temptation for many school leavers is to take a direction that feels familiar, such as choosing a career path similar to their parents, aligning it with a hobby or basing it on a skill-set they’ve developed at school. For example, choosing to be an accountant because you’re good at maths.
While it’s not a bad starting point, it’s also important to recognise that career suitability is about much more than academic or technical ability.
You need to have the right personality for that career, as well as enjoy the day-to-day demands and environment that go with it. It’s a good idea to ensure that a number of these factors align before choosing it as a career option.
One of the best ways to understand the ins-and-outs of a career choice is to speak to those who have been doing it for a number of years or to do a short-course in the field to understand how you may enjoy it.
4. Your best interests
A good start when selecting a career is to choose an option that aligns with your interests. For example, if you enjoy interacting with children, a career working with children may be the go, such as being a teacher, educator or nanny.
However, it should only form part of your decision making process. If you use this as a starting point, spend some time delving into other aspects of a career in that field, such as personality types and a typical day in that occupation. The last thing you want to do is turn something you love into something that’s a chore.
5. Be job ready
Whichever path you choose, an important consideration is the training that is available, as well as the job opportunities once you’re qualified.
Also, think about how long you want to study or train for, the costs involved and whether you want to receive training on the job from a professional. This may give you some guidance as to whether training through University, TAFE, Private Registered Training Organisation (such as Enhance Training) or doing an apprenticeship is most suitable.
Another important consideration was the job opportunities available to you once you finish study or training.
There are no bad decisions
Remember, the most important outtake is that school leavers shouldn’t be afraid of making a mistake, as your decision isn’t permanent. Whether you decide to jump into study, take a year off to travel the world, or go straight into work, you’ll gain valuable life experience that will serve you well later in life.
The best advice is to sit down with family friends and look at your strengths, weaknesses and interests and start to formulate a plan of attack based on these.