Tips to help with your teen's career indecision

With a new batch of school-leavers recently released into the public domain, many of them are set to begin their studies at a university or college soon, others are beginning their career straight away, and the rest are unemployed and perhaps still confused about what they should be doing. 

According to Kerry Damons, Marketing Manager at Boston Colleges, many parents are in a state of worry with regards to their child’s career and future plans. “This transition from school into the real world is a very daunting shift for young South Africans. Added to this is the high rate of unemployment in the country of which they can become just another statistic if they do not land a job after school. Probably the most daunting is the decision of which course to study at a university or college.” 

Damons says that because tertiary tuition comes at a cost, there is added pressure on young South Africans to make the right choice. “Many parents now sit with the worry of their child’s future as they may still be undecided. Instead of being in a state of panic, parents should rather take the time to support their kids and help them reach a decision. Despite the academic year beginning soon, there are still quite a few options available to recent school leavers,” says Damons.


More often than not, young graduates who study toward a tertiary qualification are still uncertain of whether they will enjoy their career in a related field when done studying. This is because they haven’t been able to experience the workplace in that particular field. Assumptions, often spurred on by financial reward in the form of future salary predictions, are rife among young people deciding on their career. These assumptions lead them into a course of study which they may not end up enjoying. It is therefore vital that parents identify possible careers they may enjoy and assist them in finding job shadowing opportunities. 

Should your child not have made application to a college or university and not be interested in the option of working straight away, it may be worth applying for an internship at a company in an industry they would be interested to work in. Typically, companies offer 3 month internships (longer in certain industries) where candidates are able to get on the job experience which will stand them in good stead when entering the workplace after completing their qualification. 

In order to eliminate the possibility of any future indecision, it is advisable to try getting your child to complete at least one or more internships during the year that they are at home. By doing this they will be able to be more certain of the field of study they want to enter at the time when university applications open.

Gap year

There are varied and mixed feelings about taking a gap year. Many feel that it threatens a school leaver’s ability to get back into a formal learning environment once it is over. It also has the apparent ability to demotivate students to study further and place their careers into a permanent state of complacency. The merits of a gap year are profound and shouldn't be dismissed as an option for your undecided child. 

The pressure endured during Matric and years preceding this can take its toll on students. A gap year serves as a mental and physical break for students as well as allows them to refresh and refocus themselves. In situations where finance is not readily available to pursue tertiary studies, a gap year allows for students (as well as parents) to make provision for studies. Furthermore, a gap year allows for school leavers to do some serious decision-making concerning their career and possible path of study. 

Activities to take part in during a gap year include travelling locally and abroad, volunteering time to a charitable organization, retake certain Matric exams which may reflect poor marks as well as do short courses at learning institutions. A gap year allows for self-exploration by getting out of any comfort zone and meeting new people while doing it. 

College vs University 

There is a common misconception that a traditional university is the only feasible option for anyone wishing to gain a formal qualification that is recognized in the workplace. This perception is incorrect. Rather, the institution at which a student is to study is based on ability, course of study and many other factors. Colleges are very often compared to universities with colleges always seen as inferior. The truth is, both have their own merits and it depends on what the situation is for each respective student. 

Colleges should not be dismissed as an institution where your child can get a qualification. In most cases, colleges follow a more practical approach which gives students the ability to gain necessary experience. Moreover, colleges also make provision within curricula to have students gain vital work experience at relevant companies within their field of study. Not only are students able to gain experience in the workplace, but they are able to land a job when completed with their course based on the relationships built and their performance at the company. 

It is highly likely that your child has missed the application date for universities to obtain a formal qualification due to indecision. Now, they are sitting at home with little or no direction leaving you as a parent with a headache. A major advantage with a college is the fact that these institutions have multiple enrolment dates throughout the year. This means that your child can still join the stream of students entering tertiary institutions this year. Should this not be to their taste, students can still enrol for short courses at a college and keep their brain active while waiting for enrolment to a traditional university. Depending on the institution and course, students are able to shift to a traditional university while still retaining the credits for subjects passed at a college. 

Career decision-making is hard for both you and your child. It is important to remain level-headed in this process and not make any rash decisions which your child will regret and could perhaps result in financial losses too. One sure-fire way to get started with this process of discovery is through psychometric testing with a psychologist of career guidance counsellor. These services are offered at most universities and colleges and should be made use of. While there, your child can also check out the various campuses and see which one would suit them. 

How did you help your teen decide on their career choice?
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