Troubling Times: Youth Career Planning

Selecting a university program?  Unsure of whether you’ve entered the right field after college?  Picking high school courses?  Registering for grade 9?

Nearly every week, we get a call from a young person or a concerned parent who is in the midst of one of these important transitions. 

Many families feel a growing amount of anxiety when helping a young person they care about navigate these uncertain waters. 

Recently, I had a meeting with my friend, Tracey Johns, a professional recruiter, and we found ourselves discussing this topic.  With our combined fields of career counselling, human resources and recruitment - not to mention our roles as mothers - we can see these situations from a variety of perspectives and empathize with the anxiety they create.

With that inspiration in mind, we offer 7 considerations for young people (and their families) who are dreaming, hoping and worrying about their future careers….

1.       Explore your own backyard.  Young people are often unaware of the many different careers that exist right around them – especially when they come from a small town.  Often thinking only about the broad strokes of a profession, like becoming a doctor, lawyer, mechanic, teacher or farmer, they do not know of the hundreds of other roles in their community.  Does your kid know what a millwright does?  Is your niece aware that a sales professional for a medical supply company works from his home office around the corner?  Challenge them to find out more.

2.       Look up!  Many teenagers are actively resisting summer jobs that require human contact.  After spending years on their devices, they lack the confidence to interact with people face-to-face.  Coach your kids to make eye contact when talking to an adult.  Encourage them to develop the ability to have a brief conversation and that skill alone will make them a standout candidate. 

3.       Be real.  It is time to have a frank talk about what the early years in a career are going to be like.  The luxuries of home (that you have spent years earning) should not be what they expect right after graduating.  Recount the ups and downs of when you started out.  The first job where you were the most inexperienced person in the room all of the time, the used car, the one-bedroom apartment or perhaps a brief return to home base, and if you’re like me, an entry-level salary (that made me feel richer than you could have imagined after living as a student) will help realistically prepare them for what is ahead. 

4.       History may not predict the future.  It has been proven again and again that the job landscape is always evolving.  There are virtually no industries that can offer 100% predictability and stability and so this should not be the sole factor when choosing a career path.  We do not know for sure what jobs will be the most sustainable and in demand.  Have youth look beyond the job title and gain clarity about the kinds of work they are likely to enjoy.  All skills can be transferred to another job or industry in some value-added way.    

5.       Lead the cheer squad.  Every person needs someone in their corner.  For fortunate young people this includes their parents but for some there may be circumstances in which this isn’t the case.  Whether you are a teacher, uncle or friend, there may be a youth that needs your help. Encourage them to dream.  Assist them to set goals for themselves.  Support them to gain confidence and self-respect. 

6.       Expect more.  The #1 challenge of new graduates is a lack of experience.  In some fields this cannot be helped – you don’t become a brain surgeon without spending some time in an operating room.  Encourage young people in your life to gain work experience via summer jobs, volunteering, coaching a team, and through co-op placements and internships.  Contributing to a team, reporting to a boss, communicating with others and being accountable for your actions and results are important skills that can be learned on-the-job.   

7.       Stress less.  Are you in the job that you had picked out for yourself when you were 16?  I’m not and chances are, neither are you.  Frankly, I couldn’t have imagined some of the cool things I’ve gotten to do in my career so far.  It’s true that some decisions have to be made along the way, but rarely are you shutting doors that cannot be reopened.  If you are open to opportunities, the world will respond.  Help the young person you love get comfortable with the uncomfortable.  Resilience is developed when we use our values as a beacon in times of uncertainty.  Ambiguity is not the enemy, it’s the adventure of life. 

Supporting young people to find a career that will bring them joy, purpose and help them achieve a rich life, is possible.  If you would like some guidance about career navigation, we are here to help.  Our career counselling packages can include psychometric assessments, career coaching, résumé development and interview preparation.  Contact us today to find out what service package may be right for you. 

Thank you to Tracey Johns for her contributions to this post.  With more than 20 years’ experience in the recruitment industry, Tracey is a trusted expert in her field. She is known for her professional approach and sincere desire to help people succeed. She works closely with leaders to understand their business goals and human resources requirements. Contact her today @