How do school leavers make the right choice about their next study moves?

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How do school leavers make the right choice about their next study moves?

It’s that time of year for VCE results and reviewing preferences.  Decisions for 17-18 year olds that seem at the time to be life changing.  At the Employment Centre we advise to take a deep breath and think.

What makes a good career choice? Research shows that most people will have an average of six career changes during their lifetime and career paths can go off in many unpredictable directions. Jobs for life are very rare. While career development these days often applies to people of all ages and stages of their life, it is at school that this first becomes an issue. The key focus for career advisors and teachers is to help students to make informed choices based on extensive exploration.  Then why do so many people drop out from courses or later on regret their career choices.

Where do kids get their choices? Of 2600 current year 12 students surveyed, 89% look to Mum and Dad as their first source of information. Parents are a group that may have last made their own career choice over 25 years ago. A lot has changed since then. Industries that didn’t even exist when they left school are now some of the fastest growing businesses in the world.  

Students are picking courses with little insight. In fact, the survey revealed that many students use which school rather than which course to choose their preference.  

Also interesting was how influential television and movies were in this study. In the list of influences television and movies occupied fourth place, well ahead of school career counsellors who were occupying seventh place. No wonder psychology particularly forensic psychology was the third highest preferred profession on the list. Who wouldn’t want to be like CSI or in Law and Order?

The dropout rates for first year students are the highest they have ever been with one in five students dropping out of a university course within the first 12 months of enrolment. One in three students failed to complete the university course they began. It’s worse for non-university tertiary study where close to one quarter do not complete their first year. I don’t want to scare you but how do you avoid making a choice you’ll regret.

In the Employment Centre, we see university graduates struggling to turn their degrees into jobs and into careers. Kids blinking in the bright lights of “start-ups” and entrepreneurships forget the need for some foundation experience. Others dreaming of standing in front of juries pleading for serial killer have completed five tortuous years studying Law and then struggle to get a job and when they do they hate the pressure.    

External and internal factors influence career choices and people often find it easier to identify and rely on external factors such as family pressure, pay, peer pressure and immature dreams to decide their choices. More difficult to identify are the internal factors such as strengths, weaknesses, passions and interests. These intrinsic factors have a significant impact on career decisions as well if you study something you feel connected to and it matches your passions and life purpose you will find studying easier and more rewarding.

A common misconception people have is that career development stops when they finish school and set out on their career path. Some people are fortunate to work in their “dream jobs” but many others often feel stuck in a job to “pay the bills”.  We often hear about people ready to move on but aren’t sure about the first step or do not have the confidence. The choice made by school leavers is not a signed guarantee for life but it is a good opportunity to head in the direction that will help you be energised and passionate.

School leavers making these choices should ask.

  • Am I creating a career for my parents, for society, for money or my own excitement?
  • Do I want work to be a job, a career or a “calling”?
  • Am I willing to take a risk with what I want and leave my comfort zone?
  • Do I believe that I can love what I do and make money doing it?
  • What do I want out of a job and can my choice fulfil that?
  • What am I good at and what are my strengths and then what is my dream?

Start with these questions and answer them entirely honestly. It may be one of the most important questions you’ll ever ask yourself. 

Simon Jedwab is the Manager of the Jewish Care Employment Centre and Financial Services. He is a trained Social Worker. Over the years he has tried out a number of tests that “pick” what career he should do, so he can use it in his work. He always gets Social Worker. 

The Jewish Care Employment Centre can assist you with job seeking and setting you off on your career pathway. To enquire call 85175999.