Current Date:May 6, 2021

Career Anxieties Among Teenagers

Choosing the right university and major feels like hanging on the edge of a cliff, legs dangling over a bottomless abyss full of thousands of universities, majors, and career options. Losing the comforting safety net of having limited flexibility in your studies is scary for many students. From age 4, students are given the information that others deem it necessary for them on a silver platter. We are so used to mindlessly studying the information provided to us because we have no other choice. But the time comes where we have to choose a career path of our own and pave a way for ourselves. Today’s options are limitless, and many don’t even have any idea where to start. Choosing a career from the millions of options we are provided induces great levels of stress and anxiety in today’s youth. Here are some very common anxieties present in the mind of an average teenager when they think about future careers.

  1. Uncertainty of what the future looks like:

    “I think it’s interesting you asked about anxieties rather than fear or dread, and I think that it’s a problem with careers at the moment. The uncertainty of the job market will look like and, more generally, the world I think is behind a lot of worries when it comes to thinking about the future. It’s become really hard to predict what the future looks like.”The job market is rapidly changing due to faster rates in technology development.

    We’re already going through the 4th industrial revolution and on the cusp of a 5th one. According to The Future of Jobs Report 2016, 65% of children entering education today will end up in careers that don’t exist. For today’s students, this means that the jobs they intend on or are preparing for today might not even exist.

    Alternatively, this also means that we need to prepare for jobs that don’t yet exist, and we don’t know where to start. This could be because of a lack of education on career developments and a lack of institutions that help you prepare for these careers. This causes considerable stress in teenagers when choosing a possible career path for themselves.

  2. Fear of not finding a passion to base their career on:

    Today’s media – whether that is books, TV shows, movies, or music – place a strong emphasis on the importance of passion. However, a teenager with limited real-world experience might not be able to find a passion very easily (unless it’s something accessible such as singing, writing, or dancing).

    “How can I choose a career when I don’t even know what I want for dinner?”

    Many people I’ve talked to have mentioned feeling unmotivated because they don’t have anything to work towards. This leads to choosing a career based on more arbitrary things, such as family expectations, possible financial success, or trends. The issue with this is that there’s always the lingering anxiety of leading an empty, unsatisfying life. It’s difficult to find your passion as many teens don’t know how to find the intersection where their strengths match their likes and goals.

  3. Uncertainty about whether their dream career is unrealistic and whether they will be allowed to pursue uncommon careers:

    With the rise of social media, uncommon careers such as being a YouTuber or Instagram influencer have become viable sources of income. These careers are aspirational for many today, as it gives you creative freedom and complete flexibility. The idea of working in a 9-5 office job isn’t ideal for most people.

    The stereotypical idea of sitting hunched up behind a desk, monotonous work, and tough bosses is unappealing, and today’s youth, with the world at their fingertips, are more likely to venture into unheard-of niches that are perfect for them. But when children come home telling their parents they want to be a fashion designer or an animator, the responses aren’t likely to be positive.

    The elusive nature of these fields can make them concerned about their child’s financial security and their place in society, leading them to consider more secure options. Children can also feel discouraged by this and worry that if they push their parents to let them pursue this and they don’t ‘make it’, they will be a disappointment.

  4. Fear of choosing the wrong career path:

    As students, we don’t get many opportunities to experience the workforce or be part of a workplace in our desired industry. With little to no work experience opportunities in many countries before university, people might end up with unrealistic expectations of what their job is like based on stereotypes from people or the media.

    “I’m terrified of ending up in a job that makes me miserable.”

    We spend most of our time at work, and so if I’m miserable there… I’ll be miserable most of my life. I think in media hating your job is so normalized and that it’s what scares me.”We live in a world where choosing a career based on passion is encouraged. However, this can create a fear of discovering that their passion was not based on reality. Many students don’t get enough time to sample all the different options available and are afraid of living unfulfilling lives.

  5. Fear of letting down family members:

    As I’m part of an international community, most of the people I’ve interviewed come from collectivist societies (such as Asian countries) where this fear is common. Many students feel pressured by their parents and societies to end up in a well-paying career.

    “I don’t want to be a failure, as in like I don’t want to let myself and my family down.”

    Especially if people want to pursue non-traditional careers that aren’t doctors or engineers, they are afraid of ending up unsuccessful, therefore making their parents and other immediate family look incompetent in their society. In this uncertain world of technological changes, global pandemics, and economic recession, the future doesn’t seem secure to many students.

    This combined with endless options and no experience leaves teenagers with many worries about their future, because no one wants to choose between security and satisfaction. Hence, we request the adults in our lives to listen patiently to our worries and give us sufficient information to guide us towards a career that’s fulfilling in all aspects.



Aparna Menon,
Brighton College – Abu Dhabi

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