What Should I Do After High School?
Updated: Nov 12, 2019
At some point we all think about the freedom of a life after school.
What will it be like having no homework, not having to wear a uniform and not having to come and sit within the same concrete walls every day?
With a pending countdown to the last day of year 12 we begin to think about what life will be like as an adult in the “real” world?
This excitement can quickly be overshadowed by the confusion that comes with not knowing what to do after school.
With so many options today, how do we know what to choose?
Whose advice do we listen to when we’re overly bombarded by information on the internet, from school and from the people around us?
But at the same time no one actually hands us a manual telling us what to do!
Where do we look and what do we choose?
You’re left to make all the big decisions for yourself.
Will I go straight on to study?
Should I get a job?
What kind of job should I do?
Maybe I’ll just pack up and travel?
But where to?
Let me tell you, if your intention is good, there is no wrong choice.
Keep lunging forward in whatever you feel to be the right direction at the time and your life will be interesting. You may think this sounds wofty. But if you can make this your motto - things will unfold just as they should.
This post is my very first blog entry for 'The Happy Youth Blog' created to support youth transitions.
I started by supporting the transition into life after school, exploring how we can best support graduates because for me this was without a doubt my most difficult transition!
In 2004, when I finished high school I had no idea what I wanted to do. I thought there was something wrong with me for not knowing.
Looking back now I can see this was over catastrophizing, but at the time I felt overwhelmed by the choices and underwhelmed by the lack of support to move forward.
Now, I've eventually found my path to helping support all the major transitions of youth. How to find your path when starting school, starting high school and finishing school. I've dedicated myself to providing the best resources possible to transitioning students, their families, and teachers.
So, here in this post, we'll flesh out all of the things (well obviously not all, but at least a good start) that I wish were around when making the transition into life after high school.
First, let's explore working out what you're interested in:
Working out Your Interests
In 2017, I gave a TEDx Talk on 'How to Find Your Path After School'. School-leavers can watch this talk for tips to flesh out their interests and ideas on taking that first step when finishing school.
In this talk (below) I also speak to teachers and parents to get them to start thinking about how we can start reframing how we look at supporting the graduating students.
As Steve Jobs' says “You’ve got to find what you love.”
But how do you find out what you love?
It takes time to flesh it out...
BrianKim.net has written a great article to help you tease out what you do and don't like to find what you love! You can read the article here.
If nothing else, it's a great idea to start exploring activities you can engage in that make life more interesting. Now, these will obviously be different for everyone!
But one thing a lot of us have in common is spending too many hours these days mindlessly on social media or watching TV. Can you believe most of us spend half of our weekends free time watching TV? It's true, and it's terrible.
Gabrielle Moss has put together a great starting point for trying new things on your weekend. In her blog '9 Weekend Activities To Make Your Life More Interesting' - you can check them out here.
While ultimately we want to work out what we love, what we enjoy doing. Some days you won't want to think about making a decision.
You'll just want some downtime to enjoy yourself! So do it... Take the time!
It's also in these moments that you realise what you turn to do when there is no pressure to decide based on a career or what others think you should choose.
Tiny Buddha has put together some great simple tips to help you work out how to live in the moment. Check them out here.
Looking for signs you're succeeding in life?
Just because you're not a millionaire, don’t live in a mansion, and don’t drive a fancy car, that doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Here are 20 signs that you are succeeding in life".
Now, let's explore taking & planning a gap year!
Planning Your Gap Year
With so much to plan - it's time to get planning!
To help you start the process here are 3 useful resources:
(Please note I do not receive any commission on blog posts recommended. I only include resources I feel are worth mentioning.)
1. Where To Go?
2. Trip Planning
The Savvy Backpacker provides not only tips to plan your travels but also great advice on traveling Europe on a Budget.
Do you need to learn how to budget to make your plan a reality?
Whether you’re saving for a trip, car, home or something small, budgeting for everyday life or looking out for your future is important.
Follow these 3 simple steps to create your budget.
You can also check out my blog 10 Ways to Save For Your Gap Year.
3. Tools For The Trip
41 Apps to Download for your time abroad.
4. Check Out Places Off The Beaten Path
Don't just go where everyone goes... Seek out awesome travel destinations that you can add to your "go-to" list.
For example, this picture above is of the rainbow formation of Zhangye Danxia, a landform in Gansu, China. It is the result of red sandstone and mineral deposits from over 24 million years!
Have you started creating your travel list and noting down all the places you have to see?
For 27 more surreal places you should visit before you die, see here.
Preparing To Study
Every year, thousands of new students attend orientation week around the world.
Caitlin Harvey has put together a great list of what you should know before going into orientation week. You can read it here.
If you're still unsure what you'd like to study you can read 3 Tips for Choosing What to Study?
When you're enrolled in a course and it comes time to tackle exams, you can check out these songs which will help improve your concentration.
Starting Your Career
Still, don’t know what you want to do for work?
In my research for career inspiration, I’ve come across some interesting careers and extremely motivated individuals. Not only that, but I've also stumbled across some professions I didn’t even know existed!
Wait for it… You could be a professional mattress jumper? Pencil sharpener? Snuggler?
Why not I guess.
I understand this extended amount of choice only makes the decision for what you should do next harder, but there is now an occupation made for almost everything!
For some more completely outside the box suggestions checkout the full article by Grace Murano here.
Career Path Ideas
Often I find it helpful to get inspiration from those who have walked before us. Here are some inspiring pathways you can check out:
The path of a chef - Brendan Cato
Chef Brendan Cato has taken his previous experience and love for cooking and creativity to build a unique dining experience called the 'farmed table'.
Doing what he loves, Cato, ‘Spends his week's foraging in and searching through different regions. He gathers ingredients directly from the land and the producer and on Saturday nights, dinners at various, changing locations around Sydney, enjoy a menu based on what he has found.’
You can read more about Brendan's path here.
The path of an NGO Founder - Leila Janah
Leila Janah, 33, is the founder and CEO of Sama Group, an anti-poverty organization.
"I am so sick of fundraising," said Leila.
And this attitude leads to her story.
Janah founded Sama in 2008 with the belief that creating work opportunities is the most effective tool for fighting poverty.
Sama goes into communities that lack living-wage jobs—from the slums of Nairobi, Kenya, and Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to rural Arkansas—and trains people to do digital work, such as verifying data that makes Google’s search algorithms smarter and flagging inappropriate content posted to TripAdvisor. So far, Sama reports that it has helped approximately 51,000 people, almost 22,000 direct beneficiaries and another 29,000-plus of their income dependents.
The path of a singer - Tkay Maidza
19-year-old, Adelaide singer Tkay Maidza is known internationally for her dance-floor rap.
Zimbabwe-born Tkay ‘moved with her family to Perth when she was five and on to Adelaide in 2010, where she studied architecture at university. Her foray into music, originally a side project, has since taken off in a big way: the other week she scooped four awards at the South Australian Music Awards for best release, female artist, video and song.’–
You can read more about her path here.
The path of a filmmaker - Stefan Hunt
Stefan is the perfect example of how passion and trusting yourself is the result of incredible output and success. When chatting to Stefan about where he is today he explained, “I was lucky enough to have a dad that never said no but rather said how. He's the reason I get to do what I do. That and a tonne of hard work.”
Stefan’s website speaks to his career journey where it explains that “It all began in 2006 when he packed his camera, headed to the USA, bought an ice cream truck and drove to all fifty states to make a documentary. No lie. Since then he has directed commercials, TV series and award winning documentaries across the globe with one simple goal. To inspire change through creativity.”
Rest assured, being clueless around your career is now the norm for most high school-leavers.
Not only are there countless occupations you can choose from, but there’s also a range of work avenues such as working overseas, working part-time or full time, charity work or setting up your own business.
But like these pathfinders, continue forward with your adventures and once you’ve found an industry that excites you, stick to it and give it all you’ve got!