Consider this: after 18 years of being shielded from the outside world through a school system that isn’t particularly vocational, students are expected to make a decision that will affect at least the next few years or, if done “correctly”, the rest of their lives. If that’s not enough, this decision is being made at the end of the most emotionally formative and hormonally volatile period in a person’s development, whilst every voice of authority is screaming fear and stress into their ears to make sure they achieve, achieve, achieve. Heck, sometimes when I’m feeling sad I eat 20 chicken nuggets instead of the usual 6, and I’m supposedly now an adult person with an adult job – what chance did I have with the bigger choices when I had just finished high school?
People change their minds anyway
I’m not embarrassed to say that since finishing high school, I’ve made most of my money working a job completely unrelated to the university degree I studied. The truth is, I lucked into a job in a field I had no prior interest in during my first year (I just needed the money, hello), realised I liked it and was good at it, and have stuck with it ever since. Whilst not outright dropping out and changing degrees, it was still a huge change-of-mind for me when I decided I didn’t need to be looking for a writing job so urgently and was content to be teaching for a while. And this is representative of an increasingly fluid workforce these days, where people are jumping through up to 17 jobs throughout their lives, spending less time at each, and focusing on acquiring transferrable skills outside of narrow university degrees.
The ideal choice may not be the most conventional option
The problem with everyone asking you what you want to do after high school is that most of the time, they’re asking the wrong questions. They’re asking you what degree you want to study, when you may not want to go to university at all, or they’re asking you what job you want when you don’t want a job, you want a purpose. It starts to get really limiting, and you end up thinking within their terms, not even acknowledging the possibility of choices outside of the ones they keep bringing up. In reality, your ideal option after high school may not be something you’ve even heard of yet, whether it be new creative degrees, apprenticeships, or even travel.
You don’t know what jobs will look like in the future (and neither does anyone else)
This may sound like an episode of Black Mirror, but a recent report suggests that 60% of university students in Australia are studying for jobs that will be affected by automation. We’re living in a sci-fi reality where technology is catapulting our development so fast, we’ll live to see numerous breakthroughs and digital revolutions in our own lifetime. That’s not to say it’ll be all scary though – any number of new jobs and fields that we can’t even conceive of now might be looking for innovators and leaders by the time you’re joining the workforce. Can you imagine telling somebody 15 years ago you work in social media as a full-time job? It’ll be just like that, but hopefully with more robots and virtual reality.
photo cred: malachishockley