4 crucial ideas about the work world that you weren't taught in school

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Have you ever wondered how different your life would have been if would have chosen a different career path?

Where would you be today?

One of the frequent statements I hear when I am talking to others about finding their right work fit is:

I wished I would have known this when I was in high school. 

What would have helped you the most? Below is what I wished I would have known back then.

When I was entering high school, I had no idea what I would do with my life. Oh yes, I had some vague thoughts. It seemed clearer to me what I didn’t want to do. I was lost.

I felt as if everyone else BUT me had it figured out.

The harder I tried to think about what to do, the answer felt more elusive. What I felt was….  pressure.

I talked to my friends. I got more confused and felt inept. Who else could help? I had no clue.

So I pretended I knew what I was doing.

I picked classes I thought I might need. I made sure I had good grades. By the time I graduated, I still was baffled.

I suspect that others, like me, and went through the maze of life and got some pointers along the way.

But what if….   What if I could have learned what I needed in school? What if that maze didn’t have so many tangles and pathways that I never embarked on?

What did I not learn in school that would have been helpful?

1. There are many choices

 One of the challenges back then was how I was approaching the problem. I thought there was one answer. One type of work that I would choose and follow for the rest of my life.  

Part of the pressure I was feeling back then to figure that ONE thing out.

What I know now is not only are there many choices of occupations, that focussing on occupations is not the answer.

What we are all seeking, I believe, is a place of belonging. Of contributing to the world in a way that makes sense to us.

The work will be in alignment with who we are.

So the question that gives the best direction is:

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Who am I? 

 A big question but there are lots of fun ways to discover this. Here is a question to begin the process:  What excites you?

What else I wish I learned in school was:

2. What do I have to offer the world? 

This inquiry often happens when we enter the work world. Employers ask us what are our strengths. Wouldn’t that have been handy to learn in school?

I didn’t even know what a strength was. Oh, I had some faint idea that it was something I was good at. But I didn’t know what that was either.

What I know now is our strengths which I also call our gifts and talents, is so connected to how I feel when I am doing an activity. I will be engaged in a way that resonates deeply with me.

This is tied to another thing I wished I learned in school:

3. What the world really needs

We all want to make a difference. How we do that is unique to each of us. But what the world needs is for us to know what matters to us. Because what matters is where we will make a difference. The world needs a lot of that!

There is a great quote from Aristotle about this:

“Where your talents and the needs of the world cross; there lies your vocation.”

What I know now is that how we make a difference cannot be discovered quickly. But oh, how I would have loved started exploring this when I was in high school.

What matters to us is refined over time. From our experience. From our world view.

4. No one has it all figured out

 Those students who were knew their path back in high school were also on the wrong path, on somebody else’s path or were so annoyed at not knowing, they picked something.

There were also some who just knew it. But they weren’t the majority.

What I know now is what we want to do for our work often doesn’t fall in our lap. It takes consideration and self inquiry.

 But oh how I wished I would have known that in school because I felt so alone. What if I would have had the company of others and we had a curriculum where we got to see a bunch of occupations in action?

 I would have seen people loving what they do, hating what they do and what it really takes.

What did I do to find work that fits for me?

I went to the school of life. One muddled and circuitous route. I observed other people and what they did. I asked a lot of questions. I paid attention to what excited me and what I wanted to learn more about. 


I wish I had known what I know now. Sooner. There were paths I wished I went down. Where I could have experienced mastery.


Here’s one of the best things about life. Some of the most powerful, life changing experiences we can have is what we stumble upon. Occupations I never could have imagined in high school have been added to my dream jobs list. 



What advice would you give to a high school student who has no idea what they want to do with their work life? 

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