Monday, 10 February 2020

Choices, choices, choices

I had a career client recently who didn't know whether to take a gap year after finishing secondary school or not.

It is an interesting question. In some cases when I have been asked this, it has been clear that the client has a clear gap year plan, and a rough idea about what happens after the gap year. There is continuity, and a mid-term strategy of a year or two more to follow on from the gap year. However, in this didn't seem to be what was happening in this case.

So I quietly set out to try to find out why this client wanted a gap year. After a wide-ranging conversation, sharing of ideas, and exploration of training and work options, a picture seemed to be emerging that the gap year was to create space to think, to try to work out 'where to next?'. The client had little idea of what appealed to them upon leaving secondary school.

But the lack of direction wasn't the whole picture. More discussion soon got to the real goal and the real sticking point: this client wanted to buy a house quite quickly, and did not want to incur debt which would prevent the attainment of this goal. The client was risk-averse, wanting to maximise earnings immediately for savings, so wanted to not have any student borrowings. They saw university study as a liability rather than an investment. So we talked about that.

That additional discussion uncovered a third element: the client wanted to work outside, and wanted to be quite physical. The more I spoke with this client, the less ready they sounded for traditional university study.

This is a interesting set of conditions for a career practitioner. My strategy was to give the client a lot of information about earnings potential, using labour market information, OECD data, and not-for profit reports. We crossed a lot of things off the list of potential jobs. We considered desired salaries, looked at earnings projections, talked through organisational cultures and different types of work environments. We brainstormed a few ideas for alternative strategies, such as the Defence Forces, the Police, agricultural cadet programmes, and apprenticeships. We talked about career paths from being on-the-tools in their early career to potential later degree study, and what types of organisations would support such a move. 

In addition, I told the client that - as a taxpayer - they would get a 25% reduction on their fees for five years of tertiary study (a break that they weren't aware of) and that currently, if you are a school leaver, the first year of tertiary study is fees-free (which they also were not aware of). We talked about degrees which were more hands on (such as Parks and Recreation, and Sport and Fitness), and the ability to earn over the summer at Uni, versus a trade where your pay is lower while you study and work in your chosen field. 

As a result, the client is now much better armed with information. The materials we talked through are listed below. The client still has a lot of decisions ahead, but they are clearer about the choices which are now off the list, as well as those which potentially fit their current set of conditions.

The next work we will do together is further investigating values, interests, and personality.



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