“So…. what do you want to do after you leave school?”

It’s a question I’m asked increasingly often. It seems to be the go-to question for adults who don’t know what else to say to me, probably hoping to start a conversation about my hopes and dreams and plans for life. When I was younger, it was simple to answer – I had very clear, albeit always changing, plans for what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to be a hairdresser, then a teacher, then an astronaut, then a forensic scientist, then a lawyer. But now, I just answer with a shrug and a nervous “I dunno… really… ummmm…”.

I have no idea what I want to do after I leave school. Zero clue. And believe me, it’s not for lack of trying. I’ve spent hours flicking through uni pamphlets and prospectuses, and scrolling through their websites, hoping something would pop out at me. I’ve thoroughly researched all the degrees and courses and subjects there are on offer nationwide. I’ve done every questionnaire that’s supposed to help me pick the ‘right career for me’. I even tried a BuzzFeed quiz that would tell me my dream career based on my dream house (for the record, I got fashion designer. We’ll see how that goes.) Yet, I’m still clueless.

This situation that I find myself in is becoming more and more common among people my age. Never before have there been so many careers and degrees to choose from, or so much freedom for young people to choose whatever path we want. It’s absolutely a good thing, but it’s also a bit overwhelming. Having so many choices for such a huge decision is STRESSFUL. To honest, I’m a little terrified of making the wrong choice. What if it turns out I hate what I’ve chosen? What if I ignore a path that I’d actually like better? What if I regret my choice for the rest of my life?

To make it even more difficult, there’s an awful lot of conflicting and very confusing advice out there. Some people say that I should absolutely take a gap year, and others say that it’s a terrible idea. Youtube is full of convincing videos from unis, students, and companies alike on why their degree is the best. A few articles I read said that the only worthwhile degrees are ones that lead to careers like engineering or computer science, while many others tell me to just ‘do what I love’. The problem is, I don’t know what I love, and I don’t really have a ‘passion’, which makes all the ‘do what you’re passionate about’ advice hard to follow. I’m just a big ball of confused indecisiveness – and the pressure to make a decision is getting bigger as I get older. I’m jealous of those people who seem to have it all figured out already, who have solid goals and a solid life plan.

What is reassuring though, is the common thread, the universal piece of advice that I’ve heard in all of the videos and articles and people I’ve talked to – that this decision isn’t the end of the world. It’s okay to not know what I want to do with my life at 16. And although this choice is big and nerve wracking, what I decide to do after year 13 won’t determine what the rest of my life will look like. I can switch degrees, switch careers, and change my course as many times as I want throughout life. Maybe I will make a terrible choice and pick the wrong path – but that’s fine. So the next some someone asks me “So…. what do you want to do after you leave school?”, I’ll still shrug. But I’ll be slightly more okay with that.

Kate is a Year 12 student from Canterbury. She enjoys music, languages, sunny days, and a good book – and she’s JETmag’s newest blogger!

Agree or disagree with something she writes? Maybe you have a burning question for her? Ask us by emailing at editor@jetmag.co.nz with the subject ‘#questionsforkate’ or ask us on Facebook and use the same hashtag.

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