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Students – Do You Know Where You Are Going?

‘Tis that time of year! Thousands of high school students currently enrolled in Grade 12 are on the threshold of having to make one of the most important decisions in life – “What do I want to be?” and “Where am I going after high school graduation?” For many, these are very daunting questions, for not only are they facing the decision of selecting a career direction, but they are also having to choose which post-secondary institution will best provide them with the necessary education to achieve their career goal.

For students and parents alike, these questions bring awareness that not only is this life decision a challenge, but also an awareness that whatever choice is made, there will be significant cost both on a financial and time commitment level. The desire to make as good a choice as possible is paramount. Certainly the amount and type of education today can broaden or limit career options. The decision of what to pursue and where, can determine finding employment, the type of career available and the level of income earned. Post-secondary decisions are tough and can seem quite overwhelming.

Some interesting statistics:

  1. It is estimated that the average individual starting their career in 2010 will have 11 different jobs in their working years, some of which will represent significant career change. The average tenure may be as low as 4.5 years with any one employer.
  2. 75% of working individuals between 18 and 44 years old indicated in 2010 that there was a high probability of their returning to school during their working years for further education.
  3. The participation rate in post-secondary education for 18 to 21 year olds increased in Canada from 54% in 1999 to 79% in 2005. Hence competition for entrance to post-secondary institutions is higher.
  4. 1 in 6 first year university students will drop out, while 1 in 7 college students will drop out. 64.8% of Ontario college students and 76% of Ontario university students will graduate.
  5. In Ontario, individuals with some type of post-secondary credentials have a much higher employment rate than those with just a high school diploma.
  6. More than 50% of college graduates aged 25 to 34 years in all provinces reported that their job was closely related to their education.
  7. In Ontario, there is increasing evidence that university graduates were less likely than those in any other province to report a close alignment between their education and their job.
  8. In 2000 in Waterloo Region, 39% of the population held a post-secondary education. This percentage increased to 50% in 2009. 6% of people aged 25 to 64 years had less than a high school education.

But what if a high school student is not sure where they want to go after high school graduation let alone what career they wish to pursue? For many, this is the case. For others, they may have an idea of the direction they wish to pursue, but may have made the decision absent of any guidance, discussion or research, and may not be fully aware of all their options. As a career counsellor, this situation is all too commonly seen. For many adults, a wrong decision has resulted in a misaligned career choice, excessive cost in education, job dissatisfaction and performance issues, delays in life planning, and overall career displeasure.

So what steps should a student take to make a better decision on their post-secondary education choice?

  1. Step One: Acknowledge that your career choice is yours to control.
  2. Step Two: Understand yourself – know your skills, where your interests lie, what your strengths and weaknesses are, the values that you need from your work, and the motivators that will intrigue you in your work.
  3. Step Three: Participate in completing some reputed, professionally delivered career assessments that will provide in-depth self-understanding to identify the elements of your work role and environment ideal for you. Also, identify what areas of work and potential work roles would be options offering a high probability of satisfaction. Review these results with the guidance of a qualified counsellor.
  4. Step Four: Research your career options, read about them and understand the responsibilities of this role, typical characteristics, education requirements and qualifications, current and future market trends. Meet and talk with individuals in these roles or who are familiar with them for further in-depth understanding.
  5. Step Five: Learn about the post-secondary programs available to pursue these options and investigate them thoroughly to make a sound decision on the right post-secondary institution for you.

Carefully choosing the best option for post-secondary education is perhaps one of life’s most important decisions. With professional guidance and counsel, the choice of career direction, the educational institution to attend and the program that will best support career goals can be alleviated. Student career counselling is available at Carizon. If you are a member of Carizon EAP through your employer, career counselling is included in your EAP package. If you are not a member, it’s also available on a fee-for-service basis. Contact Carizon Intake for more information (519-743-6333).

Paul Rose is a Career Counsellor at Carizon Family and Community Services.