Navigating the world of young adulthood can be challenging in so many ways. Children at this age are caught between two worlds. On the one hand, they are still children, with many decisions being made on their behalf. On the other hand, they are on their way to becoming adults, a stage of life that requires decision-making and the ownership of impacts of those decisions. To set a firm foundation, children need appropriate guidance to learn how to make sound choices for their future.
Two areas, in particular, tend to require more guidance than others: education plans and career preparation. These are highly impactful areas of young adult life, and there can be several different pressures on children that can sway their thoughts in different directions.
Family expectations: If a child comes from a family where every adult is a doctor or lawyer, then the expectation may have been laid out from a very early age that s/he will follow the same path. There may also be express discussions of which education paths or career choices may be seen as ‘unacceptable.’
Skill and interest levels: Children may have a high skill level in an area but have no interest in pursuing the study of that area or a career in that field.
Future Plans: Students may have a clear idea of a career they’d like to have but no idea what they should be doing to make that dream happen. Alternatively, they may have no clear plans at all, causing stress and anxiety.
At many an international school in Malaysia, students are provided with education and career guidelines to help them with life decisions both for now and the future.
While parents certainly can and should influence the process, it’s an important step toward independence for older children to have some ownership over their educational decisions. There are several resources that can help students make solid choices.
Educational Options: For students in upper levels of school, there are typically graduation requirements that must be met. However, different levels of subjects are often available, such as pre-algebra, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus, statistics, and others in the general area of mathematics. Students may be settled into a pre-arranged plan without any awareness that other options exist that may be more enjoyable or a better fit for their skillset.
Impacts of Choices: Educational counselors are trained to know what universities and other advanced schooling options consider when looking through a student’s transcript. In cooperation with students, these counselors can help explain the possible impacts of various educational choices. For example, what might a university admissions officer think when comparing a candidate who studied two years of Spanish versus one who studied Spanish for four years?
Even more unfamiliar to most young scholars is the world of career decision-making and planning. Advice in this area can be especially helpful for students for whom this may be their first career conversation.
Career Education and Experience: Students deserve schooling opportunities specifically designed to prepare them for particular careers or the general working world. If a child is interested in pursuing a career as an architect, it would be ideal for that student to study drafting or other beginning skill areas to prepare for more advanced work either on the job or through advanced schooling. Opportunities for job shadowing or internships can also provide valuable insight to students on what a particular role might be like.
Career Information: If young adults don’t even know a job exists, how can they be expected to show interest in it? It’s important to provide students with ample information about a wide variety of career options and opportunities to make the most informed decision possible.
Career Counseling: In a world with ever-expanding job choices, it’s critical to give students guidance help tuned to their skills, interests, and plans. Career counselors are an integral part of the successful navigation of available career options.
Benefits for Students
Experiencing guidance in the areas of education and career choice specifically can have enormous long-term benefits for students.
Ownership: Everyone has heard stories of post-university students moving back home with no plans or direction. With proper guidance from an early age, students can gain ownership of their future that accounts for their skills and interests, leading to higher investment in the outcome.
Confidence: Think about the last large project you were asked to undertake at your job. How did it make you feel about your planning and preparation skills as the project progressed successfully? This same pride and confidence can begin in your young adult simply by providing appropriate support to help them make quality decisions about their futures.
With the right guidance on important decisions early on, students can gain the skills they need to confidently handle decisions throughout their lives.