09 Jul

There are very few teens in high school who know what career they want to do for the rest of their lives. Roger Collins, principal at NewBridge, offers some guidance


Jon Stewart, American comedian, writer, producer, director, political commentator, actor, and television host, once quipped that he wants to look back on his career and be proud of the work he did, proud that he tried everything. Stewart was adaptable and prepared to take advantage of all the opportunities life offered him.

Our current societal narrative forces our children to feel that they must know what they are going to do with the rest of their lives – long before they leave school. In fact, the whole point of the journey – from choosing subjects in Grade 9 until completing matric finals – is about deciding what you are going to be when you grow up. It is an odd obsession.

But here, I believe, is the rub – most of these youngsters don’t know what there is to do once they have finished school, and even those pursuits they do know, they have no clue as to what that choice really involves. The new reality is that the world our children are going to go out into, will be unrecognisable from the one we grew up in.

Our children spend so much time obsessing over what particular path to choose, that they forget to explore … they forget to learn about the world. Years down the line, they discover that life and their careers are not the linear journey they thought they were … or that we sold to them. And the sad reality is that most of our children will end up going down a career path doing something they had never even contemplated doing.

Perhaps the point of our education is not to decide what to do with the rest of our lives, but rather to explore our options and prepare for exciting opportunities – opportunities that enable us to find where we can best make a difference. Perhaps we need to stop chasing that piece of paper we view as the Holy Grail. Maybe there are alternatives we can investigate which will better prepare us for the world that is coming.

So, what should we be encouraging our children to do at school? They should be exploring their options and finding out about possible career choices. They should be talking to people who think differently about education, breaking through the old narrative. They should be finding out about tertiary education that will benefit them the most, asking questions and identifying institutions that resonate with them – institutions that go above and beyond the status quo.

The first step is this: as your child identifies various options, make an application. This ensures a place is booked for your child and that they are building a small basket from which to make the best choice when the time comes to decide. The application process is not a commitment to study, but rather a way of securing possibilities.

Remember, a final decision is only made at the end of Grade 12, and by this stage your child not only has their final results, but, more importantly, they will also be better informed. Once they are ready to decide on the start of their journey, they will then complete the registration (or enrolment) process, committing to their choice.

If your child is one of the many youngsters who do not know what they want to do, don’t stress and don’t pressurise them – that is absolutely fine. There are plenty of options which will give them time to prepare for the world that awaits them – places that provide a platform for them to find where they can best make a difference.


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