For Gen-Z, Covid-19 has been a “generation-defining moment.” A researcher named Jason Dorsey said this, and for many high schoolers, it’s true: Covid-19 has truly had a significant impact on the trajectory of your life.1 During 2020, roughly half of 1,000 high school seniors polled said they had changed their original career plans for post-graduation due to the pandemic, according to a survey by Wakefield Research.
It’s natural to be thinking hard about your future in the wake of the pandemic, especially if you are expected to graduate high school soon or have recently graduated. What’s in store for you, your education, your career and the world in general?
While no one can predict the future, it is possible to maintain a certain level of control over the course of your own life, even during wildly unpredictable times. It’s worth it to slow down, take stock, reflect, and consider what your best options are after high school depending on your situation, your values, and your aptitudes for success.
What are your core values in life?
Graduating high school is a time of transition. For many, high school graduation marks the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood. As a child, it’s easy absorb the values and desires of the people around you, like your family, parents, and teachers.
However, as you grow into an adult, it’s time to start thinking about what’s really important to you.
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High school graduation is a perfect time to reflect upon what drives you to succeed in life. Here are some guiding questions to consider about how you might want to live your life. Consider journaling some answers to these questions, or talking with a loved one, to help you get clear about what you value the most in life:2
- Who are 3 people you admire, and why? What values do they live by?
- If you could change the world for the better, what would you do?
- What’s a lesson you had to “learn the hard way”?
- If you had to choose 3 rules for life, what would they be?
- If you asked your parent, sibling, or best friend, what would they say your top 3 values are?
A value is a principle by which you wish to live your life. In other words, values are the “laws” that you think are important to follow in order to live a good, happy life—according to you!2 Different people can have different values. Some examples of values include: honesty, integrity, efficiency, self-sufficiency, hard work, family, love, partnership, education, service, etc.
Some people value intellectual learning as one of their core principles in life, and so they may decide that a four-year college degree is essential, for instance. Other people wouldn’t necessarily consider scholarly work a top priority, and they might value real-world, hands-on labor in the workforce more than studying academic concepts. There is no wrong answer; only what makes sense for you.
When you are thinking about what to do after high school, you may consider such questions as:
- What kind of education, if any, is important to me?
- What kind of work do I think is important in the world?
- What subjects or activities are most interesting to me?
- What kind of a living do I need or want to make?
- Where do I want to live? Am I willing to relocate?
How much time do I have to decide?
Don’t make the process of choosing a path after high school more stressful than it needs to be.3 It might be unfair to expect high school seniors (who are only 17 or 18 years old) to know exactly what they want to do for the rest of their life. Maybe some people do, but if you aren’t sure what career you want after high school, or whether you want to go to college, you’re not the only one.
What if there were no time pressure, and you didn’t have to know everything right now? What if you could take your time, think about it, and only decide once you’re ready?
Especially with the pandemic, lots of high school seniors are rethinking their plans after high school. In the Wakefield Research survey mentioned earlier, 36% of graduating seniors in the class of 2020 decided they’d rather enter the workforce than go to college right away, 32% decided to push back going to college, and 16% changed their minds about which career to pursue altogether.1
There should be no pressure to make a huge life-changing decision about what to do after high school if you’re not sure about what you really want—yet.
It might take some time, research, and trying out different experiences before you feel confident about a career path to pursue, especially if going to college means major life changes like relocating, going into debt or changing your lifestyle.
Of course, you may experience pressure from parents, family, teachers, or even friends about which path you should take, but ultimately, going to college, choosing a career, or applying for jobs are all your decisions to make.
And everyone’s situation is different. If you need to support yourself or your family, going into the workforce right now to make money and build savings could be the most pressing value in your life. On the other hand, if you already know you want to go to college and don’t want to wait, then don’t! Some people may decide joining the military is the right path for them. Others might be happiest just not stressing about it and taking some time to travel, enjoy life, start a family, or find what interests them.
Finally, if you’re not sure, it may be worth it to explore options besides a four-year university. A lot of people don’t realize that vocational school is a much shorter and sometimes more appropriate alternative for some people, depending on their interests and aptitudes.
Not everyone will be happy with academic pursuits. Some people naturally think more mechanically, love hands-on work, and have values that fit well with the skilled trades, such as a strong work ethic, reliability, and practicality.
Enrolling in a vocational school after high school could be an option to consider when you’re ready.
What careers are worth going back to school for?
Once you graduate high school, ask yourself: Do I want to go back to school? And if so, what career would I ultimately want?
Going to college just because lots of other people do is not necessarily the best choice for everyone. Some educational options after high school, like attending vocational school or even some community college programs, are specifically career-driven and geared for people who want to make a living as a skilled worker.
In other words, skilled trades training is designed to lead to a job in the chosen field. If you want to become an electrician, for example, you could consider learning the fundamentals of the trade at electrician school. The same goes for being a medical assistant, cosmetologist, or HVAC tech.
Skilled trade career paths don’t necessarily require a four-year university degree, but they do require specific training required for the job. For instance, the Electrical Applications program at Tulsa Welding School (TWS) is only 7 months long, and it teaches fundamental wiring techniques to help students prepare for an entry-level job as an electrician.
With the skilled trades, the education tends to be very experience-based and hands-on, rather than purely theoretical. Some conceptual learning is necessary, such as how electricity works, but skilled trades programs are focused on teaching students how to actually carry out the job duties of the profession, including lots of practice hours.
If you’re considering going back to school after graduation, it might be important to consider what your education will do for you in the long run. Will it help you get your dream job down the line? Will it teach you what you’re interested in learning? What kind of degree or certificate will it award? What kinds of career services are available after graduation?
If you are interested in learning more about the skilled trades, specifically HVAC, welding, or electrical applications, you can learn about your options by talking with a TWS enrollment specialist at 1-855-806-4921. It could be worth it just to find out about vocational training as an alternative to four-year college. There’s no rush! Take your time and ask lots of questions to find out what you truly want to do after high school.