Reasons Why High School Career Counseling Steers The Kids Off Course

“Our life is in high school.”

It is a message delivered by the late renowned author, Kurt Vonnegut which leads us to several moments and points of realization.


The norm for High School Seniors is to choose their courses in college with a career path leading them to employment.  Most of the time, it turns out pretty well, but for some, the turnout is challenging. Laura Berman Fortgang, who is a longtime career coach, shared a career talk with clients who were in their 30’s to 50’s. They had chosen their career paths when they were still in high school.  Now, they are facing a dilemma of having a career that is hard for them to handle.


The Issue With Choosing A Career While Still In High School

What questions have they encountered during the whole process?  According to Fortgang, the career interview of the students with their guidance counselors lack the essence and that sense of proper direction.  The first thing that comes to mind is identifying and knowing what you want to do in the future, right? Well, it’s not always the case. Kids often want the glamorous jobs – doctors, lawyers, politicians, and more, but is that what they really want? Is that the life they want to lead or just a dream with no skills and drive to follow it up?

If the student answers yes admitting that they “know” what they want to do in the future, then, the next step is the guidance counselor to give the students a rundown of the courses that harness their skills. The GC’s will recommend him or her to colleges and universities catering that program.


These Are The Questions

“What are your interests?”

“What do you want to do?”

“What are you good at doing?”

“What do you like to become when you grow up?”

These questions are asked to students who have yet to make up their mind. These questions are perfectly fine but can these take them further down the road? Can teenagers, seventeen or eighteen-year-olds, decide on such a significant life issue? Fortgang explained that both counselors and parents need to dig far deeper and ask the kids why. Just by knowing what the kids are good at is part of the equation, but it does not translate to have the drive to do the job for decades and influence others to follow suit. Interests change, and that is the truth.


“You must take note of your ability and translate that ability to something you really care about,” explained Fortgang.  “The youth chooses a career stemming from a vow they made to themselves either to avoid or choose to be similar from one or both their parents,” she added. Getting these kids to think on what future they want for themselves proved to be much more meaningful and stable in the long run.

With these thoughts, Fortgang was able to come up with the formula:


Who + Why = What

Where “Who” points to self-knowledge which is proved to be difficult for high school seniors. It includes values, strengths and doing what you like so much that it takes up a lot of your time in doing.

“Why” handling questions is like, “Is there a problem in the world that you want to solve?” and “What drives you in life?” It’s about passion, motivation to do what you feel is necessary and important to you, and a calling.


Combining who and why leads to “What” – The foundation about what skills they need to learn and improve on after Who and Why. This is where they will find the kind of employment to search and jumpstart the right career.

In the sixth edition of her book, she focused on the challenge of adults face in shifting their careers.  Fortgang puts into action this successful template with students, parents and guidance counselors for high schools in the New Jersey area.  She adds, “Careers may have changed, but the schools and the process continue to remain.”

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