How to support young people through career uncertainty and anxiety

How to support young people through career uncertainty and anxiety

Today’s employment market is at its most unpredictable, fluid and competitive. Meanwhile, feelings of anxiety, stress and uncertainty associated with career planning are on the rise in young people.

Research shows the wellbeing of Australian students in Years 10 to 12 is being impacted. Career practitioners are in a unique position to support young people through the complexities of career planning. And in particular – through the related negative feelings.

myfuture Insights provides tools and strategies for those in a position to help students navigate career anxiety.

The best starting place? A safe, constructive conversation.

Career conversations are critical

For teenagers, career planning has never been an easy feat. But in today’s changing employment landscape, creating a secure, supportive and meaningful career is an even trickier task.

So, it’s no wonder students are feeling the emotional impact of such instability.

Research from Monash University, led by Dr Joanne Gleeson, surveyed almost 2,800 Australian secondary school students on this topic. Results showed that over one-third of students felt uncertain about which careers suited them.

And almost 60 per cent of students either agreed with or were neutral towards feeling down or worried about selecting a career path.

Career advisors, educators, parents and guardians can help students navigate these negative feelings – and support them towards confidence and clarity in their career aspirations.

It begins with expansive conversations that foster both career awareness and self-awareness.

How to foster self-awareness

Career practitioners should encourage students to understand why they are interested in certain careers, not just what they’re interested in.

In a myfuture webinar, Research Fellow in the Faculty of Education at Monash University, Dr Jo Gleeson, says that means asking deeper questions.

‘Powerful career conversations should go beyond picking a destination or school subjects.

‘Practitioners and parents share valuable knowledge and resources with their students while at school – and those conversations create an opportunity to explore the associated feelings.’

The three pillars of constructive conversations

These types of conversations can be tough. So Dr Gleeson has developed a helpful framework to guide emotion-focused career discussions. Think of these pillars as conversation touchpoints.

1.           Career direction and purpose

2.           Career uncertainty and anxiety triggers

Delve more deeply into the emotional and psychological impact of the young person’s career decision-making. Helpful questions can include:

  • Do you feel like you’re choosing certain careers to please others?
  • Do you feel like you’re expected to choose a particular pathway?
  • Do your choices feel limited because of who you are or where you come from?

3.           Career stress factors

Talk about the worries and stresses the young person has about their career prospects. Helpful questions can include:

  • Do you believe your studies will lead you to a ‘real’ career?
  • Are you confident your career path will be clear?
  • How do you feel about selecting a career?

Support is key to meaningful solutions

While it can be tempting to find a solution for a young person struggling with career planning, the role of emotional support mustn’t be overlooked.

It can help students become more engaged and empowered in their career planning – both vital ingredients in creating meaningful careers after school.

‘Constructive conversations can help young people discover their strengths, weaknesses, values and interests.

The more they know these and can connect them to different work environments, the better they’ll feel,’ says Jo.

Supportive adults can remind students that they don’t need to have all the ‘answers’ while at school. And that careers aren’t always linear.

What matters is that they’re thinking and planning with appropriate knowledge – and confidence.

The above article was supplied to The Educator by the myfuture team at ESA and has been republished with permission.