By Raising Children Network, with the Centre for Adolescent Health
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Teenager and dad working on car
 
In the later years of secondary school, your teenage child will probably be thinking about the future. Will it involve a job, a traineeship, an apprenticeship, university or TAFE study, or a gap year? You can help your child with decision-making.

Thinking about jobs, careers, university or further study

During the later secondary school years, your teenage child might start thinking about jobs, careers, training and apprenticeships, or university and further study. Some teenagers are very focused on their next steps, but it’s also common for many teenagers not to know what they want to do.

Making decisions
Is your child interested in university, or does she want a job? Does vocational study interest her more than university? Does she want to work or travel for a while before further study?

Answering these questions can help your child make some basic choices about whether to look for jobs, apply for university, vocational education and training, apply for deferred entry and so on.

Thinking about the future
It’s a good idea to let your child know that his working life is likely to be a journey. He might decide on something now but change direction as he learns new skills and develops new interests. If your child understands this, it can help him adapt and take advantage of opportunities that come with change. This is part of ‘lifelong learning’.

What if your child really doesn’t know what she wants to do?
It’s OK if your child doesn’t know what she wants to do, but it can be stressful. It might seem like the decisions your child makes now are all important. But it’s worth reminding your child, and yourself, that these decisions aren’t forever.

If your child changes his mind, or doesn’t get into a particular job or course it’s not the end of the world. There are always other options. 

Too much pressure to do well or to make big decisions can lead to stress, anxiety and other health problems for teenagers. You can support your child by encouraging her to have a balanced lifestyle that includes socialising, relaxation and recreation, as well as study.

Exploring options for jobs, careers, university or further study

When your child is thinking about jobs, careers and further study, your child’s interests can guide him towards suitable work or study options.

What are your child’s interests?
To get your child thinking about what really interests her, you could ask questions like:

  • ‘What types of things do you most enjoy doing?’
  • ‘What subjects do you like?’
  • ‘What subjects do you think you do best?’
  • ‘What other things do you like doing?’

You can also help your child get ideas about what interests him by:

  • encouraging your child to talk to relatives and friends about their jobs, careers and employment histories
  • going with your child to open days and career expos at TAFE, colleges and universities
  • looking at the careers sections in newspapers or websites together.

And career counsellors at school can also help your child identify future work and study options that match her interests.

How to try out options
The next step for your child might be trying out some of the options he’s interested in. For example, most secondary schools have work experience programs. Or your child might be able to explore options through part-time work, volunteering or short internships. 

When options don’t work out
Your child might discover that these options don’t suit her after all. If this happens, you could suggest she thinks again about what she enjoys, and finds out more about other options.

When you feel your child’s interests aren’t realistic
Sometimes you might feel that what your child wants to do isn’t realistic or isn’t a good match for his abilities. This can be tricky. But rather than discounting or criticising your child’s plans, encourage him to learn more about the job or course he’s interested in or similar options. 

What if your child wants to do something but you want her to do something else? It’s normal to have hopes and expectations about your child’s future. But ask yourself whether your hopes match your child’s interests, strengths, talents, passions and dreams.

Choosing school subjects to suit study, career and employment plans

The subjects your child chooses to study at school can be important to his post-school plans, particularly if your child wants to go university or TAFE.

This is because some university and TAFE courses have prerequisites for entry. This means you must have studied particular subjects at school to do these courses. If your child hopes to get into one of these courses, you can help her work out what school subjects she needs to do first. Your child’s school will also be able to help.

But if your child decides later that he wants to do a particular course and he hasn’t studied the prerequisites, it doesn’t necessarily mean he can’t do the course. Many universities offer bridging courses to help students move into different areas of study.

Study, career and employment pathways

There are lots of different pathways that lead to further study, jobs and careers.

Higher education
Some young people go to university after secondary school to do an undergraduate degree. The Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching website can help your child choose the university that best suits her. It has feedback from thousands of students about their experiences studying in Australia. 

Vocational education and training (VET)
Some young people choose to study at a technical training institute, TAFE, community college, or distance learning centre. This could be a good option if your child is interested in a course involving technical and hands-on skill development like car mechanics or beauty therapy.

Apprenticeships or traineeships
Some young people choose an apprenticeship or traineeship to gain practical skills, work experience and formal training while they earn a wage. Apprenticeship programs include Australian apprenticeships, Australian school-based apprenticeships, Trade Training Centres, Australian Defence Force apprenticeships and vocational education and training.

Work
Some young people want to start a job after finishing secondary school. Others combine work and study, either to pay for their courses or to earn money while working out what interests them.

Gap year
Some young people choose to take some time off before doing study or training. Gap years can give young people the chance to earn money, develop skills, learn about other cultures and places, work in overseas aid or volunteer. It can also give your child some space and time to think about what he wants to do next.

 
 
 
  • Last updated or reviewed 21-12-2017
  • Acknowledgements This article was written in collaboration with the Centre for Adolescent Health, The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne.