Some comforting news for millennials who don’t know what to do with their lives: you are not alone.

According to a recent Statscan report, about 10% of 25-year-olds are working in the career they chose to pursue at the age of 15. Just 6.9% had the same career aspirations as they did at age 17. About one-third made a career choice during their early twenties, with 15.9% having the same career expectations from age 21 and 16% from the age of 23.

At 25, more than 13% of students surveyed remained undecided about their career path and about 38% had decided to switch career paths.

The survey also found that socioeconomic status (SES) has an effect on the career decision-making process: 13.6% of youth with a high family SES demonstrated consistency of career choice from the age of 15, compared with 7.9% of those with a low family SES.

“Career decision-making for the majority of Canadian youth is an on-going process, occurring throughout adolescence and typically lasting well into adulthood,” according to the report.

The Youth in Transition Survey followed a group of students from 2000 to 2010. Youth surveyed were asked “What kind of job or occupation would you be interested in having when you are about 30 years old?” Statscan released a report on the survey in earlier this year.

When I took a career quiz in high school, becoming a clergyperson was among the top choices for me. I remember because I thought it was ridiculous.

I don’t remember anyone telling me how much money I would need to buy a home, or that becoming a plumber or electrician could be a great alternative to whatever career an arts degree might lead to. I don’t remember learning about which provinces had the best job prospects and earning potential, or that almost 25% of Canada’s workers were over-qualified for their jobs in 2005.

Teens today are lucky to have access to endless career resources, online networks like LinkedIn, data about who’s hiring and an education system that’s changing to reflect today’s workplace.
Still, most youth aren’t going to decide on a career in their teens, and that’s okay. Not one 16-year-old from the Statscan study aspired to be a social media expert or digital marketing specialist–just a few of the many careers that didn’t exist yet.

What’s not okay is not considering the facts when making important education decisions, especially for youth whose parents place a lower priority on postsecondary education. According to the Statscan report, more than two-thirds of youth whose parents placed a lower priority on postsecondary education were either making new decisions (46.8%) or were undecided (19.4%) on their career choice at 25.

Twentysomethings unsure about their career are missing out on key earning years, a fact that the 13% of undecided 25-year-olds are sure to vouch for. Without a steady income, moving out of mom and dads, getting married, purchasing property, having kids or finally taking that dream trip become out of reach.

There is no recipe for choosing the right career. Some combination of passion, skill and randomness are ingredients for most. Many of us will make at least one big career change and everyone will wonder “what if” at some point. But with the research and resources available today, teens should be doing less wondering, fewer career quizzes and more active decision making.


Nicole Wray is a member of Generation Y and a regular contributor to Workopolis.
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