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This is the time of year when I get lots of e-mail messages from parents asking if I work with high school students. I don’t as I’ve found I work better with people who have at least a few years of work experience, but I do know some good starting points to help young people on their way to sound decisions for the next stage of their lives.

Here are my suggestions:

1) If you haven’t already, ask the high school school guidance staff about how they are supporting students with these decisions and the resources available to explore career options and reflect on personal interests and strengths.

2) Beyond the school resources, your public library is likely to be a great asset in this decision-making project. Ask the librarians about career books for young people, such as “What Color is Your Parachute? for Teens: Discover Yourself, Design Your Future”. (A good catalogue search heading is usually a subject search for “teenagers – vocational guidance”.) Many libraries subscribe to an online database called Career Cruising that offers a few quizzes and lots of occupational information to browse. (Your child’s school might have this database too.) Paired with a book that provides some ideas about how young people can go about making career decisions, occupational information can be a real eyeopener for high school students to help them think about careers beyond the obvious options in their families and communities.

3) Another source for assistance might be the admissions department at a nearby college or university. If your child can narrow down a couple of possible programs of interest, admissions staff will be able to answer questions about each, providing information about the course of study and common career paths after graduation. Some schools offer interest-based quizzes on their websites to help direct students to particular course information (for example: College and university departments sometimes hold open houses or offer tours where prospective students can see the campus, meet some current students, and perhaps even get the opportunity to sit in on a class or do some hands-on activities.

4) Don’t forget to check out the trades. Many career paths for the trades can start at colleges but there are other options for youth apprenticeship programs and pre-apprenticeship training too. Libraries will have books about careers in the trades. Find online information on college course websites and at You could also find local tradespeople to talk to in your community.

5) If you feel more in-depth one-on-one counselling services or assessments would be helpful, ask around your parent networks for suggestions. The school guidance staff may know some private career counsellors who work with young people or your local Employment Ontario office (found through the Employment Ontario website) may make referrals and have resource suggestions.

Best wishes to all the young people out there starting to plan their career futures. An adventure awaits!

Parents and students: What resources have you found helpful? Please share in the comments below.