What do you want to be when you grow up?

With the retirement age rising, it’s entirely possible that our children will work for 50 years or more (and depending on your age, it’s entirely possible you might work for another 20 or 30 years). That means there is even more pressure on high school students to choose a career they will enjoy and an even greater impact on those who work in roles they don’t derive much satisfaction from.

When I was at high school I wished I had more clarity around what I wanted to be… but working in the higher education sector taught me there are really very few people who know what they want to be when they grow-up! There are school-leavers who choose to study engineering, dentistry, architecture, or law – but what I discovered is that many of the students enrolled in professional degrees like this are there because of family/social pressures to follow a particular path, or because they want to ‘utilise’ the high Year 12 rank they worked so hard to achieve. To study something they truly love, like Art History or English Literature, seems like a ‘waste’ of their high rank.

As a university student adviser, I spent many years telling students who were struggling with degree and subject decisions (who were often 6 months into a degree they loathed) to just “choose to study something you will enjoy”. Strengths-based research shows that we are all more likely to be engaged in our work and to derive high-levels of satisfaction from our work if we have roles that allow us to play to our strengths. Your strengths are the things you are naturally good at (not the things you have to work really hard to be good at). Further, the things you have a natural talent for are evident by the time you’re at high school and they stay with us for life. We just have a tendency to push these things to the side and call them hobbies, instead of finding a career/role that will capitalise on them.

Would you like to know what your signature strengths are? To get started, take a deep breath and answer these questions: What am I great at? What do I love doing? What do others recognise me for?

There are lots of great diagnostic tests that are aimed at uncovering your core strengths. One free online diagnostic is the VIA Survey, a psychometrically validated personality test that measures an individual’s character strengths.

Strengths-based coaching is about identifying your natural strengths – the things that really light you up – and then looking at ways you can bring these things more fully into your life.