Helping confused adolescents choose their career
485,586 students appeared for their Secondary Education Examination (SEE) this year, according to the Office of Controller of Examinations website. Since SEE is given more priority than any other exams in our country, it is obvious that people who appeared the exams are facing various emotions right now like happiness, sadness and anger. Results have also been published recently, so it is natural to face a lot of confusion during this time regarding the choice of career and subjects to pursue.
As parents of SEE appeared students, it is very important to understand the confusion of your children, which could be frustrating for them. They might blame themselves if their peers have decided what to do and they are unable to decide. But as parents we need to accept their confusion because being confused is not a bad thing. Confusion means that your children care about their future. Forcing them to choose their career in this stage or blaming them could lead to frustration and wrong decisions. Taking wrong career choices in life due to pressure could lead to depression, anxiety and even suicide attempts in later life. Therefore, this is a crucial time to help the students explore their confusion and take decisions. Here are 10 tips to work on the confusion:
- Explore skills, talent and interest: As parents you most certainly know about your children’s talents and interests. Explore what makes your child happy and satisfied. For example, they might feel happy when they play computer games or they may feel good by helping other people, travelling, photography, and so on. These interests and skills could be a good base to choose the subjects.
- Peer pressure: Adolescents are more inclined to peers than their parents. So, if they choose the course followed by their peers, don’t ignore it and don’t say they cannot do it. Rather, let them make decisions on their own. For this, let them find out the advantages and disadvantages of taking a particular course. Also, they must be clear about the practicality of pursuing courses such as source of money/support to fund the course.
- Scope of the course: There can be subjects that has no scope in Nepal, but have scope in other countries. If your children are willing to go abroad, that is fine. But, if they are interested in a course that has no scope in Nepal, it could bring a lot of frustration in later life when they build their career.
- Career aptitude tests: Career aptitude tests ask you about your skills, interests, work style and values to help you make decisions and find a great career. There are good aptitude tests done by career counselors and psychologists, some are even available for free in the internet, like the one given below:
- Academic and/or professional training: Academic courses and professional courses are different. Academic course is affiliated by universities while professional or technical course is affiliated by institutes. Help them be clear of which one they want to pursue or whether they want to pursue both.
- Take advice from experienced people: Ask your children to meet and take advice from the people who have experienced and succeeded in their career by taking particular subjects.
- Values/importance in life: If they had to choose 10 important things or values in their life, what would they be? For instance, health, relationship, education, beauty, creativity, etc. You can also ask your children to imagine what they would be doing in their life after 10 years.
- Join internship/volunteering: Let them volunteer in any organization of their interest to get more ideas, knowledge and skills, which can direct them to choose their career.
- It is okay to switch careers: There are many people, including us, who have changed their career in later life. Life and world is continuously changing and so are we. So, after all this, do not force your children to select particular subjects that you like, rather leave them open to choose subjects that they like. Help them understand that nothing is permanent and changing their career in later life is completely okay.
- Give them plenty of time to think: Hurried decisions could have a negative impact in their lives, so give them plenty of time to think about it, while still guiding them through the process.
(Ms. Shrestha is currently working at TPO Nepal in the position of Sr. Clinical Supervisor. Her areas of expertise include motivating individuals for their growth and confidence, couple counselling, counselling for children and their parents for behavioral problems and providing therapy for anxiety, depression and alcohol problems.)