Taking time to choose the right career, our weekly column from various newspapers around Ireland

Q: My son is in Transition Year, but he hasn’t a clue what he wants to do after school. He’s mad into sports – plays a lot of rugby – and I also notice he has an interest in property: he’s forever checking out prices of properties, and he watches all of those home makeover and ‘a place in the sun’ type TV programmes. But property is a tough game now so I’m reluctant to suggest estate management to him as a career. What should I do to help him make an informed decision? (Mary, email)

A: We have a specialist in the area of dealing with school-leavers – Joe Long, who has been a Career Guidance practitioner and teacher for over 25 years. Here’s what Joe says in response:

“It is not unusual at all for students in Transition Year to have no idea what they want to do when they finish school. It is great that he is showing an interest in areas that most of his peers would probably condemn out of hand as ‘boring’!

“I would advise against suggesting specific careers to him at this stage. Instead, I would suggest that you encourage him to begin investigating broad, general areas.

“The first critical task he will have to face will be his subject choices for the Leaving Cert. Many students do not fully or adequately consider the long-term implication of these choices.

“Certain career areas may be eliminated by these choices, so it’s important to consider them carefully. I would therefore suggest the following starting point for you – find out the subjects he’s really good at, and the subjects he really likes. Find out what options his school offers.

“Will he be able to do his top choices?

“Once he has selected his subjects and started fifth year then you can start exploring courses and careers in earnest.

“Many highly-motivated students are now asking employers for a few (generally unpaid, alas) days’ work shadowing during school holidays to find out what jobs are really like. His work experiences in Transition Year can also be used to prompt this along. Maybe a few days with the local estate agent might help, given his interest in that area.

“Be careful not to move too quickly to looking at specific courses or jobs. I always think it is better to start by looking at broad, general areas and only move to specifics when adequate knowledge on the area has been acquired.

“Encourage him to add to his cohort of skills whenever possible – basic rugby coaching, first aid, something IT-related, and so on.

“Be patient – he may well change his mind many times over the next three years about what he wants to do.

“A final piece of advice is to talk to the Guidance teacher in his school. Teachers get to know pupils well during their school years and there may be some very perceptive advice from that quarter.”

Sli Nua Careers (www.SliNuaCareers.com) have a variety of group and individual programmes for students in senior cycle. They also have a dedicated Transition Year programme. Contact their offices in Ballinrobe, Galway, Limerick or Dublin.