Finishing school and making a plan

Coming to the end of high school can be a terrifying reality. For thirteen years, you have only been exposed to this microcosm of the school environment. You know its ins and outs, you’ve grown comfortable with its way of being. You know how to exist in this space and survive. Why would you leave? Perhaps because a high school cannot go on forever. You realise that you have to step out into the world. All of your friends are just as terrified as you are now. What if I told you that all of this uncertainty you’re feeling could be managed simply by making a plan. Here are some tips on how to plan your future in an open and honest way, and how to prepare for that plan to change as your journey through life continues.

Decide on a goal

This seems pretty standard. It’s a question you’re asked all your life by parents, aunts, teachers, career advisors – what do you want to be when you grow up? I would say this is probably the wrong question to be asking. It’s not about what job you want to have when you’ve crossed the arbitrary line of ‘growing up.’ Think of it more like this – in ten years’ time, looking back on your life, you want to be able to say, “Look how far I’ve come.” These kinds of goals are a little less defined or concrete than saying you want to be a doctor or lawyer and are measurable in a very different sense. You’ll also find that when people don’t achieve their concrete goals, this can very easily affect their mental health, particularly when they compare themselves to their peers. The benefit of looking back and seeing how far you’ve come is that you are constantly being reminded of your capacity to grow – and if you have grown so much thus far, you have the potential to grow just as much in the future.

Figure out your values and stick to them

Everybody has different values. It’s a fact of life. When you’re young it’s hard to define your values. Ask yourself what matters most to you. Once you have your values figured out, make decisions that align with them. Don’t sell out for anyone. Sticking to your values will help you become confident in yourself as a person and in the work that you do. When your career works well with your values, you will find a lot less resistance in yourself to keep motivated and you’ll love what you do.

Understand that career path are not linear

Career paths are more of a lattice or matrix than a linear progression. When making your plan, know that getting from A to B isn’t as simple as moving in a straight line. You will be moving forwards, backward and side to side. Be prepared to move around this lattice on your way to your destination. Just because you’re not moving up the ladder doesn’t mean that you’re not making progress towards your goal. Each role will give you new experiences, new opportunities, and new skills to add to your CV. This is the same whether you choose to go to university or not.

Set concrete steps

With all of this background work and understanding, you are now ready to make concrete steps. This doesn’t have to go too far into the future, but you have to know whether you want to go to university or not before applications close. Even if it’s the only decision you make this year to set you on your way, make sure that it is done in line with everything stated above.

Be prepared for your plan to change

Life happens. At 18 you don’t really know for certain what you want to do for the rest of your life. Your plan will change. This may be a change in your major or your degree. Maybe you’ll discover that university is not for you. Maybe you entered a trade you do not enjoy and want out. There is no shame in changing your path. As you mature, you’ll discover more and more what matters to you most, and you’ll find it harder to ignore. Don’t compare yourself to your peers and you’ll be perfectly fine navigating your own path with your new goal in mind and a set of core values that you know you cannot compromise on.

Finishing school can be overwhelming. You may feel disorientated, but don’t be down about it. With a fluid goal, a strong sense of your values, an understanding of how career paths work, a couple of concrete steps and the acceptance of change, you will have no problems stepping out into the world any which way you choose to turn.