My daughter Eden is 19 years old. She finished high school at the age of 16 and everyone expected her to know exactly what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. For many years she had been convinced she would study psychology. Her aunt is a social worker, her mother is a life coach and special education expert, her father is a life coach and a good friend of the family is a psychologist, so no wonder she grew up thinking that way. Yet, when the time came to make the decision (in Grade 11), the doubts started.
In everyone’s eyes, it was strange that such a good student, so successful with such wonderful support, did not go straight to study after finishing high school. Gal and I had different thoughts about the whole thing.
You see, parents are as scared as their teens when the teens finish high school. When I talk to parents of teens, they express this fear by saying, “If they stop studying now, they will never go back!”
Well, let me give you some statistics about this.
Only 3% of teens going into higher education straight after high school actually finish their choice of study and work in that profession for about 5 years after finishing studying.
Do you understand what it means? It means that if your kids choose to study something at the end of high school, they have a 97% chance not to be in that profession. Yes, 97%! And this is only 5 years after. Psychology is even more problematic, because it takes 6 years to graduate and its average career length (the time before psychology graduates move on to their next profession) is only 5 years.
When my physiologist friend gave me these statistics, I was shocked. Apparently, teens make choices at an early stage of their life, when they have so little life experience but a lot of pressure from home (spelled “p a r e n t s”). At that stage, they tend to consider jobs that will make Mom and Dad happy rather than choosing the professions they would like to see themselves doing for a long time.
So why do we push them to do something that is 97% likely to fail?
I guess this is because parents are so used to the routine of “school, higher education, job, partner, marriage, kids” that it is hard for them to think of someone stepping out of that routine.
Parents suggest to their teens to do things based on their experiences during their teen years. Yet, it is important to remember that what you experienced 20-30 years ago is not entirely relevant today.
If you do want to compare your teen years and your choices of career to your teens’, ask yourself these questions:
- What were the things I wanted to do when I was in high school?
- Did I actually pursue those dreams?
- What did my parents wanted me to study?
- How did they affect my career choices?
- What did I do at the end of high school?
- When did I study the career I am in now?
- How many jobs did I switch since I left high school?
- If I could go back to high school and make new choices, would I do it differently?
I, for example, wanted to do many things when I was a teenager. When I was 14, I wanted to be an author and a poet and actually published some poems. Just before I finished high school, I wanted to be a high school teacher, teaching Literature and Bible Studies. On my yearbook, I wrote “Journalism”. But Life thought differently. 3 years after the end of high school, having finished my military service, I decided to become a special education teacher. I only started my journalism career 18 year later and only after that, I published my first book.
My parents “helped me” get factory and retail work “to make something of myself”, but I was lucky that Gal moved away to study and I could live with him and get his support for choosing to study. In a strange way, special education is close enough to life coaching, which is what I mostly do today, except for my parenting skills, which I did not study anywhere and developed from experience.
Since high school, I worked for others and had my own businesses. I changed jobs every time we moved and worked in a good variety of jobs.
I have no idea what I would do differently if I could go back to high school, because I am sure my life would take its own course anyway.
If you take the time to answer these questions, you may find that you are doing to your kids exactly what you hated your parents for doing to you and that the pressure you are putting on them will definitely work, but only for a short time. There is a 97% chance they will not succeed in making the right choice anyway, so you are only taking the risk of being responsible for it.
16 or 17 and even 18 years of age is very early to make such crucial decisions in life. This has nothing to do with your kids’ academic abilities and a lot to do with their lack of life experiences that are so needed to make such an important choice.
If you want to help your teens make a good career choice, encourage them to gain life experiences that will help them make good choices:
- Encourage and help your teens to apply for jobs – help them write their resume and prepare for interviews
- Encourage your teens to go and watch someone in the profession they would like to study
- Encourage your teens to move out for some time to experience independent living
- Encourage your teens to travel
- Encourage your teens to work with different bosses
- Encourage your teens to study about wealth – banking, savings, credit cards, investments, business and property
- Encourage your teens to explore physical, artistic, musical and social hobbies
- Encourage your teens to read different kinds of books
- Encourage your teens to associate with friends who like the same things
- Encourage your teens to talk to you about their experiences
- Tell your teens about your career path to allow them to understand where you get your ideas, thoughts and fears regarding career
- Encourage your teens to study something on their own, like touch typing, languages, using computer programs. Any practical skill will help them in the future
Pushing is when you ask your kids to do something you think will make you happy.
Encouraging is when you help your kid do something they think will make them happy.
– Ronit Baras