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Earlier this week I gave a 15-minute presentation on jobs and careers to the year 12 cohort of my youngest son’s school.

To open the presentation I shared three true stories.

The first was about my cousin’s eldest son, Gabe, who was raised, and lives, in Canada.

At the age of 12 Gabe and his parents and younger brother flew in a propellor plane; the type of plane small enough that you watch from your seat as the pilot flies the plane.

Gabe was absolutely mesmerised by what he witnessed and from then on all he ever wanted to do was be a pilot.

At the age of 17 Gabe enrolled in a four-year aviation technology degree, which he completed in 2015.

The following year he got on the first rung of the aviation ladder, securing a job with Air Tindi as a ramp attendant.

Later that year he moved up to a load master/flight attendant position at the same airline.

In early 2019 he was promoted to a first officer position, and after two promotions in the intervening years, was promoted to DHC6 Captain in March 2021, responsible for flying passengers and freight in Canada’s Artic north.

Just over a year ago Gabe was accepted into a larger airline’s training program and is now training to fly larger planes with WestJet, based in Calgary.

As I told the year 12 students; Gabe is one of those rare people who discovers what he wants to do with working life at a very early age and then travels the path to fulfill on that desire.

Salim had a very different journey.

As I was sitting in his barber’s chair on Saturday I asked Salim how he came to be a barber.

He gave a short chuckle and said it was a bit of a weird journey.

It turned out Salim had completed a four year graphic design degree because his parents had encouraged him and then worked in a graphic design agency for two years.

“I hated every day of it,” he said.

“So I quit without a job to go to.”

“Then what happened,” I said.

“I took a ten-week barbers’ course and during the program, I met the owner of this shop. He offered me an apprenticeship and, eight years later, I’m still here. Loving every day,” he replied, grinning at me.

I then shared a third story with the students.

This was the story of a teenager who enrolled in an economics degree because he wasn’t inspired by anything else. Then he took four years to complete a three year degree; stayed another year on campus as a student politician, then after many campus graduate employer interviews wasn’t offered a single job. Undeterred he borrowed $1500 and went travelling, ending up in London, where he was offered a job as a recruitment consultant.

Five months short of my 24th birthday I started a job that helped me find my career, although it took me a couple of more years to know that, for sure. Thirty four years later and still as energised by choice of career as I have ever been.

In sharing these three career arcs I finished by telling the students that the most important thing I could offer them was to ignore any timeframe pressure from (no doubt, well-meaning) family that they “should know” or “should decide” about their career.

“Trust yourself. Each person is different; you will work it out. It takes as long as it takes.”

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Glenn Chaffey

Great advice Ross – how can we adults possibly push young kids to make career decisions that early in life? Most people take multiple options and opportunities to truly find what their passion is and what they want to do or achieve. Giving them the tools to discover themselves and the world around them might be a far more practical approach.

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