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Career advice for school leavers

By Jana Angeles

It can be daunting leaving high school and facing the “real world”. When you complete your final assessments and end up graduating before sitting your final exams, the reality sets in that you’re almost at the finish line and you have to decide your next steps. The pressure is high at around this time because you may be tying loose ends at high school and afraid of the unknown. 

In saying this, it’s important to consider the options you have available and start thinking about what you need to do as the final weeks of your last school year creep up. Skillstalk give you some valuable lessons on what to do after high school, helping you fight the indecision of your future.

3 valuable lessons to learn after finishing high school

  1. Study hard, but also remember your marks don’t define your future.
  2. A course may look good on paper, but you’ll know when it’s not right for you.
  3. Don’t be so quick to make decisions, consider other options.

1. Study hard, but also remember your marks don’t define your future.

high school student studying at the library

In anticipation of your final exams, it’s important to check in with yourself and just do your best. No matter the outcome, you should believe that once you get over this hurdle, you can celebrate and rejoice in the freedom. 

Whether you’re from NSW sitting the Higher School Certificate (HSC) or QLD sitting the Queensland Certificate of Education (QCE), it’s important to understand that just because your results may not be the greatest, it does not mean you have failed.

While most high schools encourage students to take on further study at university, many forget that there are students who prefer the “hands-on” approach that comes with studying a VET course

In fact, Upskilled offers many popular online courses across the fields of marketing, business, information technology and more. So, if you didn’t perform well in your final exams in Year 12, you still have the option to pursue VET courses that still can help you achieve your desired career outcomes. 

For instance, you may not have the marks for a Bachelor of Computer Science at your dream university but you decide to study a specialised online course in information technology and do exceptionally well while also gaining relevant work experience, making you eligible for the degree. 

While your final exams feel like the end all be all, this is not the case so just do your best in your exams and try not to burn the candle on both ends when it comes to study. Your marks do not determine the outcome of your future - it’s what you do afterwards that counts.

2. A course may look good on paper, but you’ll know when it’s not right for you.

Dominic Knight writes in his opinion piece published on the ABC, “At school, I had my heart set on a certain course because it was supposed to be prestigious, and I thought that if I got into it, everyone would think I was smart. I'd never even thought of that particular career before my ego and my insecurity combined to tell me that I should do it,”

He continues, “I got into the course, and got my qualification, but I've never been sure that it was a good decision - I've never really used it, and all it ended up giving me were a few more years at uni. In other words, I made a dumb decision because I wanted people to think I was smart. Better to be honest about what you'd really enjoy doing, and be good at.”

Adding to Knight’s advice, it’s important to also keep in mind that as you grow older, your interests may change and the course you originally planned to study may not be relevant to what you want to do in life. You also have to realise that you may at some point want a career change, which may require further study.

It’s encouraged that you choose a course that not only plays to your strengths, but it’s something that you’ll enjoy studying as well.

3. Don’t be so quick to make decisions, consider other options.

gap year concept

When you complete Year 12, you may not even want to get straight into a university degree just yet until you’ve explored your options properly. Taking your time when it comes to making decisions based on your career is completely fine and you have other options that can help boost your chances of securing your dream job. Here are some pathways to consider:

Study an online course

You may not want to commit to a university degree and prefer to do a course that provides you with relevant industry knowledge and skills that will make you work-ready in a short amount of time. Upskilled offers plenty of courses at a diploma and certificate level. 

Due to their flexible mode of study, they are designed to be completed within 12 months or less depending on the progression of the student. There are plenty of benefits in studying online including saving commute costs and having the flexibility of studying anywhere at anytime. 

Take a gap year to work and travel

The drop-out rate for university has been alarmingly high in the last ten years and this comes at no surprise, especially if you’re 18, recently out of high school and have entered a degree that you thought looked good on paper but it wasn’t what you expected. This is why a gap year is encouraged and it’s become more than critical, especially if you need to catch a break because you’re not sure what a “dream career” looks like just yet. 

Travelling during your gap year is a popular option and has many benefits. Not only does it help you grow as a person, it will enhance your way in navigating the world and finding a new sense of independence. You will also gain some soft skills that can be applied to the workforce such as communicating with others, negotiation skills and adapting to change. 

From its history to the culture, travelling the world gives you a fresh pair of eyes because you will be able to explore unfamiliar ground and create memories you’ll remember for years. It also breaks up your routine, giving you the space to gain more clarity when it comes to understanding what you truly want. 

A gap year also provides an opportunity for you to work as well because how else are you going to pay for your accommodation and flights if you want to travel? It also provides great experience as you gain soft skills and start building your professional network early on.

Last year an opinion piece written by Jenna Price, Columnist and academic at the University of Technology, Sydney states that she can tell whether or not a student has taken a gap year, noting some other advantages young people gain when they take that much-needed year break. 

She says, “They don’t burst into tears over marks. They don’t get cranky when you critique their work. They have a resilience born from working at the checkout in the local supermarket where customers may behave deplorably and, if they have the economic advantage necessary to travel, they also have the resilience born from dealing with the travel disasters that happen when Mum and Dad can’t rescue you anymore.”

In saying this, students who have taken a gap year have more “life” experience than those who decide to get straight into university study. They are also exposed to the workforce as well, allowing them to go through situations such as dealing with a difficult colleague or recognising the signs of a toxic workplace culture. 

In some ways, those who decide to take a year-break have the advantage of being adaptable to change and can overcome obstacles much quickly, which can be found in both work and travel.

Are you a career starter needing further advice? 

You may be finishing high school this year but have decided that you want to study with Upskilled because it’s the best option when it comes to your desired career outcomes. 

With a variety of courses to choose from, a dedicated team of trainers and the flexibility of being able to study anywhere at any time, Upskilled can help you reach your career goals in no time. If you need further career advice, check out the Skillstalk blog for more helpful tips on study, developing your career and more. 
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