Most high school graduates in the dark about their future

Kids do not choose a career. They choose a process they might find interesting, and that is an even harder decision to make. | Getty Images

Q: As much as all of us were excited when our youngest son graduated from high school earlier this year, I have been a bit reticent about the whole thing.

Our youngest son is at a complete loss.

At the moment, he has no future. I understand that often as not, young people barge out into the world through a cloud of uncertainty and somehow survive, even though they do not know what they want. But this is new and different for us.

All three of our other children seemed to know where they wanted to go and were determined to do what it took to get there.

Our oldest son is working with his dad on the farm. One of our daughters is articling to become a chartered accountant, and will soon write her qualifying exams. Our other daughter is pregnant with her second child, married, and more than happy to stay at home to be with her children. They all had some sense of purpose.

Not so the youngest one. He is a great guy, I just love him to pieces, but nothing is driving him forward and that is driving me crazy.

I understand that I cannot start making decisions for him, or redirecting where I think our son should go but sitting back and doing nothing while he is struggling with his future is also not agreeable.

There must be some kind of a balance.

What do you think? How best can I help my son through this moment of indecision in his life?

A: I think that you got a little more than lucky with your three oldest children. The extent to which new grads from Grade 12 actually know what they are going to do with their lives is low.

All of them will of course put a little tidbit with personal goals written into it beside their grad pictures in the annual school yearbook, but few of those tidbits do much more than kid either themselves or their parents that as new grads they know where their life is going to go.

The truth is that they do not know. So it is that a number of personal and vocational counsellors advise their clients to take a year or two off from their studies and figure life out a bit before continuing on to post secondary education.

The problem that new grads face is that this is a multi-confusing world, one that has not been made easier with the advent of electronic technology. Graduating students have many more options than either their parents or their grandparents had when they were younger. Picking one option for a career is not easy.

The other problem that many students have is that choosing a career is not just a decision. It is a process, one that challenges them for the rest of their lives.

If we might be so bold as to take agriculture as an example, it is not for the young person simply to decide to become a farmer. With finances as they are, the probability to get funding from the bank to start a farm is pretty much zero.

But agricultural corporations, large farms and ag-related businesses are trying to attract new grads and with new vocational options, the new grad can go into farm management, evolve into agricultural consultation, truck driving, food inspection, food preparation, market analysis and any number of research projects.

It is called lateral transference and through it the average professional can expect to move from one area to another with little or no preparation for the new challenges any number of times throughout their lives.

Careers are neither as stable or as fixed as they once were.

Kids do not choose a career. They choose a process they might find interesting, and that is an even harder decision to make.

Your task as a parent is not to make decisions for your son. That is his job.

You can best help him by making sure that he has good working skills, that he knows the merits written into responsibility and reliability, that he finishes what he starts and that he is on time with commitments he has made.

The more basic working skills he has the better are his odds for success when he finally makes a career choice.

Jacklin Andrews is a family counsellor from Saskatchewan. Contact: jandrews@producer.com.

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