Don't Let Career Decisions Stress You Out

16/08/2017 13:47 BST | Updated 16/08/2017 13:47 BST
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It's exam results season, and young people across the country will be picking up their A Level results this week, with others set to receive their GCSE results next week. If you are one of those waiting for your results, you may well be feeling stressed and worried not only about your grades, but what they may mean for your future career. In a recent survey commissioned by my organisation AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians), 94% of 16-19 year olds told us that they are worried about having to make career decisions. However, although the results you are about to receive are important, remember they don't have to define the rest of your life.

AAT spoke to 2,000 16-19 year olds across the UK about their career worries. Of those who are worried about having to make career decisions, around 62% said they worry at least once a week, with 19% saying that they worry every day. Around 27% are worried about choosing the right job for themselves and 20% are worried about not knowing what they want to do in the future. Combined with further concerns about being successful, these statistics are of real concern.

Unsurprisingly, 51% of the 16-19 year olds told us that all this worrying is having negative effects on their health, with 28 per cent saying they struggle to sleep at night because of it, 22% saying they are over-eating or under-eating, and 17% saying it causes them to have panic attacks!

I find it troubling that so many young people could already have sufficient concerns about their future career that their health is being affected. It may seem to you that you will have to stick with whatever career decision you make now, and remain in that career for the rest of your life, but that is simply not the case. There are large numbers of successful people who started out in one career, but then moved on to doing something else.

AAT sees many people of all ages who come to study with us for a qualification and are then able to use that to either enter a career after college, or change their career later in life. These range from those who have just finished their GCSEs or A Levels, up to people in their 50s, 60s or even 70s, demonstrating that it is possible to change your career at almost any stage of life.

You too may be feeling the pressure of trying to figure out what to do next, in order to get your career off to the best start. There are a variety of different routes available, such as going to university, or pursuing an apprenticeship or other technical qualification after leaving school, and it can be hard to choose. You may also feel like you are being pressured by others. For example, 67% of the 16-19 year olds we spoke to said that they had experienced pressure from their school to go to university, even if they didn't feel it was necessarily what they wanted to do. They may have wanted to complete a technical qualification such as an apprenticeship and earn a salary while learning, or simply seek some other pathway. Therefore, it is essential to remember that you should always be the one to make the final decision about your next step, and seek advice on your future from multiple sources.

If you are feeling stressed about your future direction, try and find someone who you can talk to and may be able to help. We found that 57% of the 16-19 year olds we talked to have spoken with their parents or family about being stressed, 43% have spoken with friends, but 18% had not done anything to address their worries, which is concerning. For anyone who may feel that they do not want to talk about their worries with anyone around them, there are services that you can contact, such as MIND, Heads Together, or Student Minds.

For those of you receiving results over the next couple of weeks, it will hopefully be a joyous occasion. Good luck to everyone waiting, and remember that no matter what grades you get, these results don't have to influence the rest of your life.