Taking finals, going to prom, deciding our fates

Resources aimed specifically at career choice can be a bit underwhelming

Most high schoolers’ minds are filled with the typical worries of a teenager: getting our driver’s licenses, maintaining good grades, dating, and, of course, experiencing the crushing weight of knowing that the choices we make now are some of the most important decisions in our lives and will impact the trajectory of our imminent futures. 

Many adults would say that their career is one of the most dominant components of their lives, and a career choice often stems from what major one chooses — a decision that high schoolers are expected to make by their senior year. I mean, the 2020s have seemed dystopian to me, but the whole choose-your-fate-at-sixteen-years-old reminds me just a little too much of “Divergent.” To think that I, someone who can’t even make up her mind about what to order at McDonald’s, am supposed to not only know but practically decide on what I want to pursue for the rest of my life is absurd.

Of course, not all teenagers are as muddled as yours truly. Many students have been influenced by their parents or close friends in these choices.

“My dad and I have always loved building and designing different projects,” Monte Vista High School junior Isabella Surano said. “[He] and I have always had a strong relationship because of it and he is the one that encouraged me to do something with that passion [for design].”

Others seek to combine hobbies and passions with career, such as junior Mackenzie Rebello. 

“My parents gave me a couple of ideas but mostly it was just me debating what hobbies I’d like to pursue as a career,” Rebello said. “As someone who’s interested in both English and music, I’m having trouble finding colleges that offer everything I’d like to try out.”

Still, plenty of students don’t have such specific interests or insight from parents.

“I still don’t know what I want to be,” junior Joselyn Li said. “I know some parents pressure their child to take certain courses and others are kind of clueless… [my parents] are immigrants and can’t provide me with much guidance, and I really think that help… is a big part of discovering what you want to do.”

It’s not that teenagers are going in completely blind, however. Monte Vista has counselors and career advisors that are intended to help high school students. There’s also Naviance, a resource that helps students decide what college and majors to consider. In a small informal school survey I conducted, a majority of students said that more online resources and more career fairs would help them feel less stressed about choosing a major. 

“I think it depends on [the student],” junior Katelyn Sun said. “Some people are more educated about [careers], but usually people just know basic ones. However, I think [resources like] Naviance help.”

However, resources aimed specifically at career choice can be a bit underwhelming, such as quizzes that are supposed to tell you what career fits your personality and goals. After taking one of those, I find myself thinking that I could have taken a Buzzfeed “Design your Dream House and We’ll Tell You What Kind of Bread You Are” quiz instead and gained more personal insight. And though counselors are a blessing to have, sometimes it’s hard for a person who barely knows you to help you make such a massive choice.

“If you did talk to a counselor about a career, they’d ask, ‘What are you interested in?’” Li said. “[But] what if you don’t know?”

(Monte Vista’s college and career counselor was contacted for an interview but was unavailable due to PSAT/SAT proctoring duties.)

On top of that, a plethora of jobs exist that teenagers are completely unaware of. Sometimes I still feel like a third-grader who only knows vague titles like “scientist,” “inventor,” and “baker.” There are plenty of jobs that high schoolers don’t consider—I have no idea what a “systems administrator” is: all I can think of is that scene in “The Matrix” with all those random green strings of code. “Associate consultant?” You definitely wear a blazer. “Data analyst?” Surely you don’t just look at graphs all day. These are all common jobs, jobs that high schoolers should probably know about, and yet we don’t. (Our parents may not even know what these jobs are either.)

“I don’t think students have enough knowledge [of] and exposure to potential careers since so many students are worried about getting in all the academic credits they need to graduate…,” Rebello said. “They don’t have the chance to try out the electives that might give them an idea of [what] they might want to pursue in the future.”

Academic pressure is a major factor when it comes to career insight. A student may turn down an arts class for a weighted AP class in order to get a higher GPA and a better chance at getting accepted to college.

“School doesn’t really help us decide what career we want to go into and we have so many required classes, so we don’t really get to pursue things that we are into,” Li said. “Even if we could, the school might not have the option for certain courses and then you have to take it at [Diablo Valley College]… and it’s a long process.”

Of course, this is not the end of the world. Students often change their major when they get to college: about 80 percent, according to a survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics. Many people end up with jobs they never even considered as kids, or discover a passion in college where there’s more freedom to choose classes that we’re actually interested in. 

Even though right now we might be confused kids trying to figure out life in the short time we’ve experienced it, it’s important to keep in mind that nothing is set in stone. 

This article originally appeared in The Hoofprint, a magazine produced by The Stampede, the student newspaper of Monte Vista High School in Danville.