Prepared for the future?

As thousands of A-level students ponder their route to 12,000+ days of working life, Alastair Creamer looks at how school-leavers are prepared for the overwhelming world of choices. He thinks a much earlier start will help…

“I think that as teachers, parents and advisers we can do more to halt the crisis of ambition experienced by many teenagers. “Why should I bother? Things are so competitive. I don’t stand a chance” are common complaints from school-leavers without a clear post A-level path. Finding their ambition is critical, so how can we help them uncover a sense of what’s possible and how to determine their path to get there?

It has to start earlier. A-level results day is three years too late. Students often do have the answers (to questions about next steps) but generally they are not able to access this insight without help. Ideas and options need to be ‘brought out’, rather than imposed, and they need a proper opportunity while still at school to discover them. It’s not always careers advice they’re looking for, it’s self-awareness and confidence. Maybe we’re asking them the wrong question in ‘What do you want to do?’. It doesn’t help people consider careers that suit their values, personality and motivations, let alone skills and experience. We should focus on who they are, what work means to them and why.

An addition of more serious reflection into the learning mix will help teenagers ‘peel back the layers’ of themselves and recognise their strengths and values. A fulfilling life stems from knowing yourself. Teachers and advisers can enable a powerful start by posing meaningful questions and guiding teenagers to focus on who they are and what motivates them, rather than what they want to DO. That way, their eventual career choices will be more fulfilling.

If the 18-year-old you’re advising is feeling directionless this week and didn’t benefit from this level of guidance three years ago, right now is a good time to start.”

Alastair is co-founder of Eyes Wide Opened ( ), a team of coaches working in schools and colleges since 2012 that includes a former hostage negotiator for Scotland Yard, a CNN anchor-woman, a stand-up comedian and BBC researcher, writer and actress.