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An open letter to all Year 12 students


“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

You may have heard this phrase before? I’m betting that you have heard it more than once. In fact, you might have even asked the question yourself.

It’s an interesting question that has been thrown around for decades. The part at the end about when you are ‘grown up’ suggests that it is asked of young people, like yourself. The question also infers that you will decide to be one thing when you are grown. One job? Well we know that is simply not going to be true for you.

It is predicted that today’s school leaver will have 17 jobs across five careers in their lifetime. The length of job tenure for working Australian’s, on average, is currently three years. Therefore, to ask the question about what you want to be (meaning what one occupation will you work in) is outdated.

With the possibility of multiple career changes on your horizon, you are simply taking the next step on your career development journey. This next step might be university, TAFE, a gap year, work, or something else entirely. Regardless of what you decide, the statistics presented above indicate that you will be on the move in no time, taking another step in another direction.

Deciding on one occupation for the rest of your life is very alluring because it’s easy. You can dust your hands off and declare that your career is decided. No more thinking required. Phew what a relief, I know the answer.

However, what’s more difficult yet much more satisfying is learning more about yourself—something that takes a lifetime to master. Your skills, abilities, and preferences for work. Your values, beliefs, and the key influences on your life (both personal, social and to some extent economic and environmental). Simple things like knowing if you want to work outdoors versus being at a desk can help you make decisions about where you want to head.

Therefore, managing your career is about continuously learning. Reflecting on your current and past experiences (work and otherwise) and asking yourself what worked for you, what gave you energy, and what didn’t. Your first step after Year 12 will be definitely something that you are interested in. However, can you refine your choices so that your next step is even more compatible with your skills and work and life requirements.

So my advice to you is simple. When the next person asks you “what do you want to be when you grow up?”, respond however you like but ask yourself later “who am I”? This is the one question that will bring you true answers about where you want to go next.

All the very best with your next step, and the steps after that.


Mrs Wallace

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