Beyond High School, What’s Next?

I recently spoke to a medium-sized group of middle school students about resiliency.  When I asked them how many of them knew their plan after high school, every single hand went up!  This group was the first group where all knew the answer. I was so surprised that I asked if anyone would mind sharing their plans.  Hands again went up all over the room.  As students shared their ideas, they had detail about education, jobs, pay, how they would get there, the length of time, everything.  When young people focus such as this in such large numbers, it certainly is not by accident.  At some point, several adults along their path have had conversations with them about their passion, interests, and plans for their life.  What a refreshing change!  I thought the world was in great hands with these kids as they spoke about supporting one another, not putting each other down, and staying aware when a classmate was feeling down or had experienced some difficulties in their life.  If you think this must have been a private or parochial school, it wasn’t.  It was a public school!

Contrast this with a conversation I had with a former student whose daughter is about to graduate from high school.  I asked him what her plans were for the next steps.  He stammered for a minute, gave a few general answers, and finished it with, and she also wants to rent a house and live there with some other friends and just work.  I asked him if that was okay with him?  He answers that he doesn’t care.  Really?  I would care about an answer like that.  There is nothing wrong with that answer, but I needed more details and more commitment for “then what?”  So often hear parents complain about their kids and how they are 20, 22, 24, 26, even 30 years old and still don’t know what they want to do.  That amazes me that this could also be so.  Here are a few steps to ensure that your young person discovers their passion, their talents, and how to turn them into the business of making a living.

  1. Sit with your child regularly and discuss their interests.  Do this as early as elementary school and continue the conversations through high school and into college.  Career options should be a regular topic to help your child to learn more about themselves and where their gifts and talents lie.
  2. Conversations about a child’s passion and interests can naturally evolve into professions and alignment with something that will provide them with a lifetime income.  It may be a hobby or a career.  I like to stress the difference between a job and a career.  Careers have a passion for them; they drive people to go beyond and pursue learning for a lifetime.  Often a position does not.  I’m not saying that for some people, this isn’t true, but often it is not.
  3. Help your kids to meet individuals in your own life that align with some of their interests.  Encourage them to speak to other adults and to ask some of these questions:
    1. How do you like your career?
    2. Would you choose it again?
    3. How did you start?
    4. What was your work schedule?
    5. What was your pay?
    6. What is the potential income?
    7. What advice would you give me today at my age as someone showing an interest in this profession?
  4. The following steps include arranging for your child to spend time in that career.  It could be a job shadow, maybe their first employment, or volunteer work.  Get them immersed in that profession, help them process questions they have, and help them to understand that all careers have their challenges and undesirables.
  5. In high school, begin conversations based on their interests about what education is required and licensure, or preparation for the position of which they are interested.  When adults take time to have conversations at this level regularly, young people will not end up in high school and beyond not having a clue what they want to do.  Encourage them to push through the difficulties of preparing for a profession, see themselves as successful, and move on to great things.

I challenge parents to begin conversations with kids about career and work choices.  I want to mention that this is all our jobs, not just parents.  Everywhere I go and am around young people, I engage them in a short conversation about career and future options.  They nearly always end by thanking me for bringing it up.  I enjoy it; it is my way of adding value.  Would you mind going to my website: for more information on the services that I offer?

For additional tips about High School & Beyond, please see Home – High School and Beyond (

In my Tips for Teens series I write about School Achievement, please click here Tips for Teens: School Achievement – Dr. Rich Patterson (

Yours for Better Parenting,