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"Navigating the Overwhelm: How Can Teenagers Discover their Ideal Career Path?"

Young adults finding a career pathway
Young adult career exploration

If you're a young adult in Year 11, 12 or 13, here's some questions for you:

  1. Have you started thinking about your career options?

  2. Do you find it difficult to decide on a career path?

  3. Are you sick of people asking you what you’re going to do after high school?


It’s understandable if you are struggling with making a career decision.

Studies show that only about 5% of school leavers have made a clear decision about their career – the rest of their peers are just guessing.


So today, I want to share some strategies with you in helping you explore career options and make decisions.


AND I want to show you why making a good decision – FOR YOU – is important.


Career coach New Zealand Auckland Wellington Christchurch
Tracey Beard

My name is Tracey Beard – I’m a career coach, expert and strategist, and for the last 12 years I’ve been encouraging young adults and their parents to approach the “what are you going to do after school” in a different way. I’m bringing science, facts and personalised coaching to help young adults like you identify their interests in the world of work, and I ensure parents are involved in the conversation too.



So, let’s think about the path that your life is likely to take:

  • You spend 3 years studying NCEA, that’s about 4000 hours of work.

  • Then, for your career, you are likely to spend 80,000+ hours and 40 years working.

That’s why it’s important to make a good decision, as you will be in that career field for a LONG time – it should be a positive experience where you are feel like you are providing value to an organisation or to clients, and feel you have a real purpose in work.



when you are happy in your career, this impacts positively on every other aspect of your life.


It might surprise you to know that SCIENCE of career exploration has evolved – there are lots of studies into the workplace, what challenges young adults are facing in finding a career path, and what motivates people to work.


A key finding of this research into career exploration is that in the past, we picked a career when we were at school by asking “What am I good at?” and then just picking a job in the thing that we were good at.

But we now know this approach is WRONG.


Here’s what we SHOULD be thinking about when exploring a career path:

1.       We want to work with people who are similar to us. We need to find our peeps - then we can be ourselves, as they 'get' us and we don't have to pretend to be someone else.


2.       We pick our career based on what we are INTERESTED in, NOT what we are good at. That's because we can be good at something, but not actually interested in it; so if we can pick a career based on OUR INTERESTS, NOT OUR ABILITIES, then that career can maintain your interest through those 80,000+ hours of your career.


3.       BEFORE we look at various careers, let's find out WHO YOU ARE. Most people are using an outside view of careers when making their decision – this is where adults give you a heap of careers to look at, and hope that you will pick one. However, I flip this around to take an inside out approach, where I focus on exploring who you are – your personality, interests, motivation for work and your work style, then I see what careers match up with that.


4.       Look BEYOND the subject title to explore what you enjoy about it. For example, if you are taking Geography this year, what do you enjoy about it? Is it the human geography aspects, or the physical environment, is it the environmental aspects or the farming options you explore? These can suggest other options beyond just geography. E.g. human geography can suggest social sciences might be interesting for you – sociology and how we live, build communities, set rules etc. If you like learning about the environment, is environmental science and sustainability an option to study at Uni, or perhaps earthquake research?

5.       We are all motivated by different things at work – such as helping people, being outside, taking risks, organising things, being creative, etc, so we need to make sure that motivator is there every day, as it gets you coming back to work.

Become a person of value by finding your ideal career path
career advisor goals

6.       We all have a different work style, and our career choice needs to reflect this too. For example, you might like working in a team for part of a working day, but not all day. You might prefer practical learning to more academic learning.


7.       Consider what you are WILLING to do to find out more about career pathways, such as talking to people in roles that interest you, exploring the course outlines for various tertiary courses that appeal to you, or using a professional (Like me!) to brings tools and knowledge to the conversation. If you find yourself saying “If a good course came along…” then this suggests you're not willing to research tertiary pathways.


8.       Think beyond the traditional pathways for career options. For example, we tend to think of science as Physics, Biology and Chemistry – if you enjoy science but can’t see yourself in a career focused on physics, chemistry or biology, then look at the wider science subjects. For example, economics is a science, computing is a science, psychology is a science, engineering is a science. The same with medicine – it’s easier to think that an interest in medical science means being a doctor, but there is a vast array of medical professionals, such as scientists researching new drugs to cure diseases, medical technicians who analyse and evaluate blood, tissue etc to support a diagnosis, health educators and promoters, radiologists, occupational therapists, nutritionists.


9.       Remember that your parents want the best for you – they might come across as being over zealous or pressuring you when it comes to the career conversation, but at least they care! They might not have all the answers, and it’s not their job to have all the answers, but they do want to partner with you. Sometimes it can be useful to say to your parents, “I don’t expect you to find a career for me, that’s my responsibility. But it would be great if you could be a sounding board for me, as I sift through my options and make decisions.”


10.  Don’t rush the process – a good career decision takes time! And it’s worth taking the time to get it right. Think of it as a sifting process, where you gather information, discard options that don’t work for you, and get closer to a decision. I often say to the young adults that I coach, that I don’t expect them to make a decision in the coaching session, rather it’s the start of a discussion and I’m partnering with them to explore options, narrow their choices and get to a decision that works for THEM! Not one that works for me, or their parents. After all, you are the one that has to LIVE IT.


11.  University isn’t the BEST decision! It’s one option, but it’s important that you don’t view the other options as less than. It’s about finding a solution that works for you! This could be Uni, or Polytech, or an apprenticeship, or a gap year, or getting a job, or pursuing a sports goal. Don’t get pulled into thinking you have to follow the pack.


12.  University should be a fabulous experience – you’re taking on a new challenge, getting some independence, learning to manage yourself. If you’re not excited about Uni and deep diving into study and learning more about yourself, then maybe Uni isn’t the best option for you, or you need to find subjects that inspire you, or maybe you’re not ready for Uni YET.


Ok so there’s some strategies for exploring career options - has it encouraged you to re-think the career exploration process?


Now, take a deep breathe and try this - close your eyes and imagine you are 25, probably finished your studies and now in your first role as a professional in your ideal career path.

Imagine how that will feel, when you are working in role where:

  • You are doing work that interests you and engages you

  • You are working for a company that values you and treats you with respect

  • You are surrounded by other people like you, who are interesting and who get you!

  • You feel like you have a purpose, in that you are contributing to a common goal or solving a problem you want to solve

  • You are feeling confident about what you have to offer your organisation or the people they serve, and this puts you in a good position to enjoy those other aspects of life outside of work – family, friendships, adventures etc.

How good will that feel?

This is what I want for you all.

You deserve to find the ideal career path that fits YOU, because when you are fulfilled, then we all benefit.

Keen to chat with me about your career exploration?

You can book a free Discovery Call here - it's a no obligation, no sales call.

Just a chance to find out more about my process, and see if I'm the right person to help you.


Award winning career coach for young adults in New Zealand
Tracey Beard Career Matters CEO




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