Motivating your young person to choose a career

Two young men chatting as they walk together

How to help when your young person wants to leave school with no plans.

Choosing a career path can create a lot of pressure for a young person. Some may react to this pressure by avoiding making any decisions. Others may seem to not care about what they do when they leave school.

With simple goal setting, young people can be helped to make the right choice.

Here’s how to help those who are obviously overwhelmed by career planning, and those who might need a push.

How to help when your young person is struggling

There are a number of ways to ease career choice pressure on young people.

  • Help them break down choosing a career into small steps rather than one big decision – they could start by researching careers online or writing down their skills.
  • Give them time and space to make a decision.
  • Remember that careers change. Suggest they do something that is right for them now, such as work or travel, until they feel sure about what they want to do.
  • Encourage your young person to interview others about their jobs and ask other learners about how they chose what they wanted to do.

How to help when your young person has no plans

It is possible to motivate a young person who has no career plans.

  1. Check for other problems. Is there anything else going on? Is their mental and physical health OK? Talk to the dean at their school or your doctor if you have concerns.
  2. Be positive. Young people are more likely to try something if it is talked about positively.
  3. Praise their skills. Let them know the skills they have and how useful those skills are in the real world. Use our Skill Matcher tool to find jobs that use those skills.
  4. Use role models. Does your young person have a favourite family member they could talk to? Do they have a sports star they look up to who has an interesting career path? Inspire them with good role models.
  5. Set expectations. Set a time limit for when you want your young person to take certain steps in their career planning. For example, they need to check out a career expo by the end of August.
  6. Set boundaries. Make it clear that if they don’t have a plan by a certain time there will be consequences. For example, if they haven’t chosen a career path by the time they finish school they will need to get a job. 

"You win at life" exercise

Young people who can’t seem to make a decision sometimes think their dreams are too big and they don’t have the ability to make them come true. The "you win at life" exercise helps.

  1. Tell your young person that they’ve woken up in the morning with exactly the life they want.
  2. Ask them to draw or write about this life.
  3. Get them to explain what they’ve drawn or written.
  4. Connect the life they want with how they can achieve it. If they imagine travelling often, talk about jobs that involve travel.
  5. Tell them you believe in them, and that they’re capable of putting in the hard work to get what they want.
  6. Write down some easy first steps towards achieving the life they want. For example, watching videos online about people who have worked towards a goal. Make some dates together to achieve these steps.

Related article

Talking careers with your young person

A mother and daughter talking on a couch

Deciding which career path to take can be a challenge. Find out how to help your young person explore their future career.

Updated 11 Jul 2023