There is nothing more rewarding than giving young people a sense of what they could do with their life; it is the reason why I trained as a careers guidance practitioner. However, making sense of the myriad of choices available to young people at ages 15 – 18 is not just confusing but it can act as a barrier for young people to engage in the decision making process.

Decision making is hard and takes a considerable amount of cognitive effort. Notice how much better you feel for making a decision. We feel better, even if the decision we take is the wrong one.

Being confronted with too many choices induces stress and uncertainty – two feelings that are unhelpful and, for some people, unmanageable.

Here are some practical tips to encourage a positive culture towards decision making:

1) Our history affects our future. The decisions that we have made before will affect the way in which we look at our future options in all areas of our lives. Start by reinforcing a culture of decision making, positively reward good decisions, encourage a culture of self-examination e.g. helpful questions to ask your students might include “That’s an interesting decision, tell me why you have arrived at that decision”? Or “What factors contribute to your decision?”

2) In the digital age where information is freely available and nearly everyone is willing to offer some form of careers advice, access to information is not the challenge for young people. As career professionals, we must teach information gathering and research skills whilst enabling students to make sense of careers information.

3) Increase the level of engagement in the decision-making process. As careers professionals, there are many things that we can do including: delivering a series of events across the academic year that act as career engagement events. This might include a careers fair, a careers workshop or a careers talk. Events have the power to empower students to engage with the career decision making process. 

I’ve had the pleasure of working within the careers profession for over 10 years and must have worked directly with at least 150 different careers advisers. I have seen a variety of models and approaches but one thing that surprises me is the differences between the number of career events ran locally at a school. Some schools run an event once a week whereas other schools run career-related events once a term. There are often a number of factors that determine how many events a school delivers e.g. human resource, network, skill, attitude towards career events, past successes/failures.

We have created a platform that removes all barriers on schools for running career fairs, talks and presentations. It takes less than 10 minutes to plan a single event. Our platform is being used by careers advisers across the country. For more information about how the careers calendar can help take a look at here.