Not sure what to do next?

We answer your big questions if you still don't know what to do when you leave school, you have too many options or your parents don't approve of your choices.

No idea what you want to do when you leave school?

  • Think of the things that make you happy. What subjects do you like at school? What things do you enjoy doing outside of school? List the things you like doing and rate them from 1 to 10.
  • Give yourself permission to try out different things. You could try designing your own apprenticeship. This is where you explore different jobs within a set time limit, such as six months. That way you are not fully committed, but you can find out if you like the job.
  • Another way to approach things if you have no clear goal is to work on a more general qualification, for example business administration or management. These can be applied to many different areas – a management degree can be used in a variety of fields such as project management, logistics or sales and marketing.
  • You could also look for a course that has no fees to try out an area of interest without getting into debt.

Too many choices and can’t make a decision?

  • When you’re comparing several different professions, try to find people to talk to who are doing the jobs you’re interested in.
  • Set up an interview with them to ask what the job is really like. This is called informational interviewing. It may show you that your dream job is not what you thought.
  • As you are talking to people, take note of your gut feeling about the jobs. Is there something that really grabs you? If so, you could pursue some work experience in this job to confirm that it’s the right choice.

Parents don't approve of your career choice?

  • Think through your ideas clearly before you talk to your parents. What kind of life do you want? You could be drawn to a lifestyle, rather than a job.
  • If you are confused about your ideas, you could have a brainstorming session with friends, or make a collage about where you see yourself in five years’ time.
  • What are your parent’s expectations? Maybe some of the things they are saying are right. Listen to their opinion, but do your own research as well. If you can talk clearly to your parents about your plans and goals they may be more understanding.  
  • Is there a compromise you could find? There may be a job out there that will satisfy both you and your parents.

Didn't get into the course you wanted?

  • It’s okay – you’ve still got a goal in mind, and a plan to get there.
  • Look at applying for alternative courses that teach the same things. If you are set on a particular course, maybe you can do something that will help you qualify for the course in the future.
  • Consider taking time out and getting a job in a related field, then apply again next year. Having experience in the field may help you into the course.

Accepted into two different courses, but can’t decide?

  • It’s not really a matter of choosing one course or the other. The question is, which one will you do first? What is important for now?
  • People have lots of different careers in a lifetime. This one decision is not for life, it may be for the next five to ten years only. Many people change careers completely three or four times during their lives.
  • Talk to people who do the two jobs you’re interested in to make sure you understand the realities of both. Then you will be better informed when it comes to making the final decision.

Pressure from your parents to study?

  • Even if study doesn’t appeal, you can still get a qualification. New Zealand Apprenticeships and industry training are ideal ways to gain a qualification while earning money at the same time.
  • Look through the list of industry training organisations (ITOs) on our ITO contact page. Rank the industries on a scale of 1 to 10 - 10 being an industry you would leap out of bed to work for, and one being an industry that would make you pull the blankets over your eyes and go back to sleep.
  • Once you figure out your top few industries, contact the ITO to find out how to get into the field. Or start doing some door-knocking or calling around to potential employers to see where there might be an apprenticeship opportunity.

Not sure about leaving home to study?

  • You need to decide how much you want to do the course. What is your long-term goal? What are your priorities? Perhaps there will be short-term pain for long-term gain.
  • Have you looked at other options? There may be short courses nearer to your home that will give you a taste of the course. Once you find out all the options, you can work out which plan feels best.
  • What are your fears about going away? Perhaps you could find out if anyone else you know is doing the course or moving to the same city. Or you could have a holiday in that city during the year to see what it’s like. Maybe there are family members in that part of the country you could board with?
  • If you really can’t face moving yet, you could look at work options in the same field that will also help you get into the course next year.

Unsure what you want to do after school? Our students have ideas (Video - 1.35 minutes)


Updated 28 Aug 2017